My Fifth Grade band audition
When I was ten years old I lived in the small town of Grenada Mississippi. I was looking forward to starting fifth grade at Lizzie Horn Elementary School because that was when beginning band started and I wanted to play the drums. My mother wanted me to play a horn – clarinet, saxophone, trumpet – anything but the drums. She had played the clarinet in school and was also the drum majorette for the high school marching band. She also played the piano so music was in my blood. I had been studying the piano for a year, taking lessons at school once a week with a nice old lady named Mrs. Rhine who smelled of musty talcum powder and whose arm fat jiggled when she played.
The Grenada High School marching band practiced for the Christmas parade by marching on the streets surrounding the elementary school play ground. I fell in love with the drums. I would walk right along side the band and watch everything the drummers did. The sound of the drums mesmerized me. It was very exciting the way the snare drums and bass drums and hand cymbals crashed and boomed like man made thunder and lightning as it forced the horn players to march ahead of them. The sheer volume of the drums echoed off the surrounding houses and the school building and mesmerized me. I imitated the drummers arms and hands with a pair of crude drum sticks I had fashioned from tree branches, hitting a wooden box that I hung from my neck with rope. I learned the cadence, the street beat they played, and at home I would practice those rhythms over and over and over again. I couldn't play a roll because my twigs wouldn't bounce like real drum sticks.
I had also fallen in love with the music of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and all the other rock and roll bands of the early sixties. I saw Ringo playing drums with the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show and watched the girls scream as they shook their hair. A Beatle hair cut with bangs promptly ensued. My neighborhood gang would play toy guitars and I would play toy bongos as we mimed to the Beatles and put on shows for the neighborhood girls.
When the auditions for beginning band started, the band director said only four out of the thirty or so hopefuls would be chosen to play the drums. Of course most of the boys wanted to play the drums, not the horns. As I stepped up to the marching snare drum on the stand, the first real one I had ever played, the band director told me to play slowly RLRLR…, then double strokes RRLLRRLL… and a few other basic patterns just to see if I could play in a steady tempo. After doing that I volunteered "And I can play this too!" and launched into the high school marching cadence at full volume and tempo, producing an impressed look on the band directors' face, and dropping the jaws of my classmates. When it came to the rolls in the cadences that I had never been able to produce with my twig-sticks, the real drum sticks were bouncing just the way they were supposed to and producing a very satisfying buzz , just like the high school snare drummers. What a feeling of magic and power! I was in heaven. Needless to say I made the audition with three of my buddies; Keith Bills, Ford Bailey and Harry Alexander.
When I got home after school that day my mother asked me what I was going to play, "…the clarinet, the trumpet, the saxophone?". "No Mama, he chose me to play the drums!!!". She started crying on the spot, then promptly marched out the front door headed toward the house across the street where the band director, Ferrell Lunceford, just happened to live. I thought for sure that she would bless him out and I would be switched to a horn, my dreams dashed. She came back in a few minutes with tears still in her eyes and told me, "He said you were the best one out of everybody, so if you're going to play the drum, you be the best drummer you can be". My fate and identity were sealed from that point on.
I knew that this was going to be the start of a long romance with the drums. This was something I could do well and didn't even really have to try. It just came so naturally. I wasn't athletic, I was a mediocre student, I was short and wore glasses, BUT NOW I had something I was good at and my self esteem was off the charts. I became obsessed and from that point on everything else in reality became less important than getting my hands on some drum sticks. What's amazing is that I have never lost that feeling. Sure it gets a little old hat sometimes, but once I'm in the zone....look out, cat!
The grand total of Blind + Subjective scores