August 24, 2019
How I Kept My Promise To Chris Coleman
I've been playing drums for over 30 years.
Most of these years, I've totally sucked as a drummer.
I mean, I've always enjoyed the process, but I've consistently hated my results.
This dynamic completely shifted when I attended a masterclass of the great Dom Famularo.
After he opened the floor up to questions, I got up and muttered something like, "I've been playing drums for 23 years, and I totally love drumming. My problem is, what I hear when I play totally sucks. My groove sucks. My timing sucks. My sound sucks. My speed sucks. The parts I come up with for songs suck... Without hearing me play, what's the one thing you would focus on for me to become a better drummer?"
Without spending as much as a second thinking of a response, Dom replied, "Have you ever considered studying with an instructor?"
This was probably one of my most embarrassing moments ever.
In my 23 years of drumming, I had assumed that I can just become a great drummer by wanting to become a great drummer and occasionally playing the drums.
As I was sitting there with a bunch of other drummers laughing at me, I realized a few things.
First, it became crystal clear that drumming is a learnable skill. It's not something you either have or you don't.
Second, if I was to get better, it wouldn't be because I'd keep on doing what I had been doing.
So I signed up for classes with an amazing local drummer in Vancouver, Mr. Ryan Van Poederooyen.
By the way, I had this same revelation about BUSINESS being a learnable skill a few years after the Dom Famularo incident.
That was when I started getting mentored by Dan Lok.
But I digress.
About the same time, I discovered this thing called Drum Fantasy Camp where you get to spend 4 days learning from the best drummers on the planet.
I was barely making ends meet with my business and didn't have the extra money lying around but still I figured out a way to attend.
They used to run it in Cleveland back then.
That year, they had Dave Weckl, Virgil Donati, Chris Coleman, and Dave DiCenso as instructors.
I've always been a huge fan of Dave Weckl, and initially I just wanted to have 4 days with Dave.
But the organizer, Steve Orkin, told me that this is not how it worked. I had to have a new instructor on each of the days.
Grudgingly, I said, OK.
I watched some YouTube clips of the other 3 drummers and got pretty excited about learning from Virgil and Mr. DiCenso, but thought that a class with Chris would be a waste of time.
I just didn't care too much for what he played in that clip.
Anyway, I LOVED my class with Dave Weckl.
And the next day, I was scheduled to have a class with Chris.
Which totally blew me away.
This was a great lesson in and of itself.
A lesson about having expectations about things you have no idea about.
I still remember walking to my hotel that night, flabbergasted and furious.
Flabbergasted with all the things I have learned and furious that no one had ever taught me those things before.
If there was ever a humbling experience in my life, it was that...
On the last day of the camp, the instructors played a concert for us.
Dave Weckl and Chris Coleman were both out of this world.
It was magical.
I remember coming up to Chris after the show.
I told him how amazing it all was, thanked him for the lesson.
And then, I made him a promise.
I said, "Chris, here's my promise to you. Either I come back to the camp next year playing significantly better or I'll fucking quit."
I didn't quit.
I came back that year playing better.
But it was still a long way from where I wanted it to be.
Remember, I've always loved the process of drumming. I just never liked my results.
My goal remained the same: I wanted to get to the point when I would no longer hate the sounds produced by my hands and feet.
I continued to take lessons from Ryan. I also had a few lessons with Jay Deachman.
Also, I learned a ton through the online drum lessons platform, Drumeo.
It only made sense since we helped Drumeo trademark their brand.
By the way, one of our coolest testimonials came from Drumeo's founder, Jared Falk, with us both drumming in the video.
Long story short, this year, I attended my 5th camp.
And something magical happened.
It was the first time in my 30+ years of playing that people came up to me and told me that they enjoyed to hear me play.
Heck, even the legendary Dennis Chambers and Steve Smith both said they were digging my groove!
I've never had that happen to me before.
At best, people would tell me "good job" to encourage me for trying.
Usually, it was just something like "Wow, that was loud!" or "Boy, you've got a lot of energy!"
But this time around, it was different.
It FELT different, too.
Was it perfect?
I can find a few dozen things I wish I'd done better or differently when I watch the recording.
But I'm beyond happy and proud for not quitting and getting to this point.
My big goal for next time is to see if I can get my face to not look like I'm about to murder someone while I'm playing the drums.
You'll know exactly what I mean when you watch me play Bustin' Loose.
Let me know what you think.