I was once invited to play my old, beat up, radiator-dented trombone live at a gig in Worcester last year. Though I found it difficult to play drums and trombone at the same time, what a wonderful experience that was and it reawakened my love for that instrument I began learning along with drums way back in the fourth grade. My sisters and I were writing and performing our own basic songs in the living room for our parents well before that age as well, planting the seeds of songwriting in me early on.
I know life gets in the way sometimes with kids, money and many other demands, but I have tried hard to live by this mantra as a drummer my entire life: “Always Aspire To Play Live.” Another words, you should always practice and prepare to play your instrument live out in front of audiences as much as possible. Live performance is at the core of being a dedicated musician, in my opinion.
When looking back, the impetus for that excitement and challenge of live performance was entrenched within my soul when I was awarded an Outstanding Musical Performance certificate on the Drum Set by the National Association of Jazz Educators back in high school at a state-wide jazz ensemble competition while attending Auburn High School. I recall playing a drum solo to “Caravan” that impressed all the judges there and drew wide applause. I loved that live feedback, padding the end result of a lot of hard work in rehearsals. What a day that was.
However, drums eventually won out as the band director needed a jazz band drummer as did Show Choir, Marching Band and Chorus ensembles. All I did in high school was play drums in rehearsals and live. I didn’t play sports or video games. And when I came home, I put on my headphones and played and sight read music every day. Then, off to college I went where I basically double majored in music and professional writing given how many minor track theory, songwriting and music history courses I took as well as how much live music I played in many bands at FSU. Endless hours of live performance at the college parties, with a popular alt. rock band in and around Boston, and in the college jazz and concert bands on trombone, coincidentally, etc. Blah, Blah, Blah.
As a professional drummer and music educator, I feel it is absolutely critical that we maintain our chops on whatever chosen instrument we’ve mastered (or even still trying to master). I never stopped playing out live or yearning for that opportunity, even while I worked as a part-time musician for many years while writing. Yes, continuing to practice your instrument alone certainly helps a lot in learning and maintaining chops, but the value of playing with other musicians can’t be simulated. It’s earned with a lot of hard work and live gigs.
If you find yourself in a slump and not playing out live enough or at all (and it does happen), the easiest thing to do is attend live open mic music jams in your area. That will get you playing live again and also introduce you to a broad network of other musicians who live nearby that you can then possibly start jamming with. Many bands have grown from open mic night friendships. Another tip is to just pick up the phone and call former bandmates and musician friends and ask them to jam with you. You’d be surprised how many other musicians think alike.
If either of those solutions don’t pan out, try advertising in music stores and online community bulletin boards to form your own band or look for bands in need of drummers on Craigslist, etc. And if all else fails, come out with an impressive solo routine, get a permit from city hall, and play live out on the streets. I’ve yet to do this but it is on my bucket list. That said, I did start facilitating group djembe drum circles on the side about five years ago as another way to keep playing live and earn more money, which has steadily grown in popularity.
I’ve been blessed in my life to play with many great musicians and bands. While I never found the good luck and “been in the right place at the right time” to join a national touring band, I have certainly done smaller tours regionally in New England. The point is I have gained enough skill by practicing hard and following my philosophy of “Always Aspire To Play Live” to deliver on a national artist touring situation should it arise. Below is a compilation of my upcoming local and regional gigs on drums. I smile every time I pull out of my driveway with a truck full of gear. If you come to a show and see me smiling on stage, now you know why.
The Island Castaways Band
(One of New England’s most in demand trop-rock and Jimmy Buffett touring cover bands)
TICB Studio Single Released 1-25-18 – “Somewhere Down US1”
Feb. 23 – 2018 New England Parrot Head Convention – 9:00pm – 1:00am! The theme of this year’s convention is Under the Big Top! Great People, Great Music and a Great Cause! For more information go to www.newenglandphc.com/2018.
May 29 – Red Sox, Fenway Park, Margaritaville Night, Boston MA
Band plays outside at Yawkey Way before game v. Blue Jays.
Gig tickets and info here: www.mlb.com/redsox/tickets/promotions/themes/margaritaville
June 1st – Indian Ranch, Webster, MA
July 6 – Indian Ranch, Webster, MA
July 11 – Cuttyhunk Concert, Tropical Island Somewhere off Maine
Aug. 4 – Cutuit festival, Cutuit Cape Cod
September 7 – Indian Ranch, Webster, MA
** Many additional TICB tour dates TBA as summer approaches.
Luscious Lushes (all original jazz, funk and R&B, Sturbridge, MA)
10-Song All Original Music CD Launch Party, Homefield Brewing, Sturbridge, MA – May 5, 7-10 pm
Studio Recording at Long Hill Studios in January 2018 – now in post production
The Jeff McClean Project (all original alternative rock based in southern NH)
10-Song All Original Music CD Launch Party, Homefield Brewing, Sturbridge, MA – May 5, 2-5 pm
Studio Recording Done Entirely Online in year 2017
The Trinity Big Band (Worcester, MA based jazz swing band)
The All-Volunteer Jazz Big Band plays most every Tuesday morning in and around Worcester, MA
All Together Drum Circles (Facilitated by Tim)
Tim facilitates group djembe drum circles on a weekly and monthly basis at various senior centers, kids’ facilities and assisted living facilities throughout Massachusetts. He’s hauling his 20 djembes and assorted percussion to Oasis Living Center in Worcester, MA every Friday morning with several other monthly gigs.