A Little Drumming in Everyone
I have had the privilege over the last 6 months to perform with a band from Las Vegas on the Disney Magic cruise ship. My prior ship work experience performing with various groups has granted this opportunity to approach Disney with an idea that I felt many of the guests aboard would enjoy. To elaborate a little, I approached them on the idea of performing drumming events for the kids. I had to pay special consideration to the fact that people are vacationing and really are here to enjoy a leisurely good time. With that in mind, how could I intrigue them into taking an interest into drumming, without intimidating them with demonstrations of Flam Paradiddles or discussing the need to practice with a metronome? Obviously I had to pay much consideration to my method and approach with an enjoyable, fun and easygoing manner.
During the past nine years I have performed drumming events at over 250 schools and over 50 retail music stores. I felt that with the experience that I had gained over these years working in the music industry in a variety of capacities, I had developed an ability to establish an enjoyable drumming event that the guests would want to be a part of. I knew the program had to be “hands-on” and interactive for the audience, should include some real information on styles and techniques, and some history of the instrument – but again, without being intimidating. Fun is the key word here, and music is all about having fun and expressing ourselves. This way of thinking has led me to create the title of the program:
"A Little Drumming In Everyone” - Percussion Madness with Jeff Salem
This event was offered once a week, and was listed in the ship’s daily program.
After a brief meeting with the activities director to convince them of the worthiness of the event - my first performance was a success! I had over 100 guests attend and the Disney people gave me their thumbs up (including Mickey!). So what was it I did to get these people interested in drumming? Remember - most of the people who attended had never played a musical instrument before!
In my introduction, I talk about the passion I have had for drumming for most of my life. I shared my memories of watching The Brady Bunch as a child, and seeing the character Bobby Brady get a set of drums. I knew at that point that playing drums is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. To make sure I kept their interest, I also announced that we’d have a “quiz” at the end of the show (with prizes!) on my presentation, and that they should pay attention to everything I was saying – including the names of the instruments and the musical styles. Needless to say – I had the audience’s undivided attention!
At this point, I moved to the drums and performed a short solo, and asked for a volunteer to join me on the stage. I proceeded to show them a basic grip, and then moved them to the kit to teach them a basic rock beat. Once the student was able to hold down a simple quarter note pulse, I would accompany them on the piano playing a basic 12 bar rock/blues piece. At this point, the audience was really impressed with the student’s ability to apply something to the music!
I thought it would be interesting to the audience to separate my presentation into several musical categories – so in addition to the rock beat I mentioned earlier, I also explored jazz and Latin rhythms. To teach the basic jazz ride cymbal pattern, I had the audience say the words “Please Shut The Door, Shut The Door, Shut The Door…etc…to mimic the sound of the jazz ride rhythm. Once they were comfortable with that, I would proceed to play on piano the jazz standard “Fly Me To the Moon”, being sure to share with them how, in jazz music, the ride cymbal and hi-hat were the two main time keeping parts of the kit, whereas in rock - the bass drum and snare were the two main time keeping parts (and of course I used this as one of my “quiz” items later in the show!).
For Latin rhythms, I demonstrated a variety of hand drumming instruments including conga and djembe – and proceeded to conduct a mini drum circle with volunteers. This was very popular – with upward of 30 guests would participate in each session! Once I had the circle to a tempo and rhythm I liked, I would accompany them on the piano to play a version of the Latin standard “Besame Mucho”. So here we were on stage - a group of people who have never played a musical instrument before – having a great and fun musical experience! It was fantastic to see how the audience enjoyed expressing themselves – I could almost see the drummers being born!
In my closing words to them, we’d hold a little quiz where I would give away some drumming related items – such as sticks. I’d use the material from my presentation and ask such questions as “what brand sticks do I use?” or “what country did the Meringue originate from?” The first guest that could tell me the answers would get a pair of sticks. This was such a great a way to see who was paying attention and who really enjoyed the event!