My game changing moment was both nerve wracking and extremely rewarding at the same time. In June of 2001 my band, Stardust, was fortunate enough to be chosen as the entertainment at John DeChristopher and Kelly Firth’s wedding reception in a beautiful venue South of Boston. Knowing that John was a very connected guy in the drumming community and a VP at Zildjian, I figured that there may be a few name drummers (and maybe some of my heroes) attending. Couple that with knowing that Kelly’s Father is THE Vic Firth made for a few butterflies before the gig.
So the band is set up, line checks are complete, Zildjians are in place and Vic Firth’s are in my hands. As we begin to play Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” the guests begin to enter the room. I casually look to my right and notice many people shuffling in, making their way to their tables. Knowing who may walk through the door I close my eyes and continue to focus on playing – being careful not to overplay, of course.
About halfway through the song I look around and begin to take an inventory of the guests. Right in front of me is a smiling Dom Famularo. Cool. He seems to be enjoying the band, makes eye contact and gives me a nod. Awesome! Then I see Danny Gottlieb and Dave Discenso to the right. A few butterflies start to fly. Oh, to my right is one of my favorites, Steve Smith and at the next table Dave Discenso. Hey, there is Armand Zildjian and Lenny Dimuzio standing directly in front of me with their contagious smiles giving me the thumbs up. I’m feeling pretty good! I see Vic Firth, father of the Bride and dressed in a tux walk over and and join them. What?! Is that Vinnie Colaiuta sitting at a table on the far right? THE Vinnie Colaiuta?! Giant butterflies now inhabit my entire body but I must keep it cool, keep it grooving, must not fall apart, not now….so I keep grooving.
As the song comes out of the last solo and winds down to the head I look to the back on the right side. There is Peter Erskine standing against the wall listening and nodding his head to the beat. I had not noticed him before. We make eye contact; he smiles that big smile of his and gives me two thumbs up! One of my hero’s approves. My confidence is intact. I am relaxed and live to play the rest of the gig due to early validation of all of the monsters in the room. That was a game changer for me.
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