My mother told me that I danced before I could walk. I didn’t think about anything when music was playing except to feel it move through my body. I believe we all have rhythm though I have met a few people who seem to have forgotten it. When I was twelve I told my parents that I wanted to play the drums. They did their best to convince me to play something smaller, like the flute. I told them that people won’t be able to hear me if I did that. It wasn’t until I had stuck with the lessons for a couple of years that my parents bought me a drum set. I think they were really hoping that I would’ve given up before having to get one.
I played in my high school marching band and the orchestra. When I got to college, I used all my electives in music. My brother, Stan, played the sax and was a music major. He introduced me to an amazing drummer, Rob Cargell, to continue my drum lessons. It was the start of a whole new phase of understanding music and being part of a band. Plus, Rob was really cute.
I took rhythm classes in Jazz and Rock. The focus being how to connect and anticipate what the other guy is doing. It’s a completely different feeling from playing with a marching band. Instead of reading music and following a conductor, I’m working with a small group improvising a song. I was having a hard time relating and trusting my inner rhythm. Rob was trying to figure out why and at one point looked at me and said, “Stop counting.”
I said, “What? Stop counting? I have to count or I’ll lose my place.”
“Don’t count while you’re playing. You’re not allowing yourself to feel the music that is being created around you. Get out of your head and just listen.”
It was the strangest feeling when I started to play and hone in on what the bass player was doing. Little by little I felt like he and I were one person. The more I practiced with the band the better understanding I had of the other players’ personalities.
Empathy is feeling someone else’s ideas and thoughts. Everyone’s approach is different and you have to gain an understanding of how that person will interpret a song. To lock in with another person, to be in the pocket together is hard to describe. It’s like you’re reading the other person’s mind, especially when you have played with the same group of people over a long period of time.
The rhythm section’s job is also to support the soloist. It’s an amazing sensation when you can understand when to lay back and when to punch with an accent. I have a whole new level of appreciation when I hear a group meld their ideas together.
I’ve always thought that the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes was important to being more compassionate to those around you. I think playing in a band and relating to each other heightened my sense of awareness. I seem to pick up on other people’s emotions before they even say anything. I also know that annoys a few people but I can’t help it.
I continued playing drums even when I became a professional belly dancer. Stan came out to see me perform in a Greek restaurant. Later he asked me how long I had to practice with the band before going on stage with them. I said the band and I never practice together.
“Well, then how did you know what they were going to play? How did you dance to the music and the drum solo if you’ve never heard it before?”
“I learned how to listen and anticipate what the musicians are going to play and they watch me as well. This way it looks like we rehearsed it.”
“But the rhythms and time are constantly changing. How do you stay with them so well?”
“It’s easy. I don’t count.”