Because all experiences are valuable.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Few, The Proud- Percussionists

I can't believe that Percussion Camp starts back tomorrow. Reid will be there 9-5 this week, then next week starts full Band Camp, 8:30 -5. The Color Guard practices an incredible number of hours, maybe more than the Drumline...or maybe the same, I'm not sure, but their dedication shows. The Guard is stunning and moving to watch, especially in the indoor competitive season. WGI Indoor Drumline defies explanation, you just have to see it.

As I write this, Reid is practicing.

He can't really know just how dedicated and talented he is. He can't really know just how impressed I am with his work, and work ethic, even as I tumble him out of bed telling him that if he doesn't do as well as he wants, then he has no one to blame but himself. That is a mom's job. Encourage, cajole,harass if necessary, but keep the perspective and reality clear- that his gift is a gift from God that he alone can manage.

Reid prides himself on his individuality, but I'm not sure he even knows how different he is. He told me a story about last Thursday night's Drumline practice, and I hope he is not upset that I relate it. I gather the instructors were not pleased with the condition and skills of the percussionists after their time off this summer. They were slack in their timing, flabby and weak in the ways of percussion, if not physically. Mentally unfit for duty in the singularly focused, myopic way that Drumline demands. Their director went around the room and said he could guarantee he could point to each person and tell them how much they had practiced during the break. He went around and said basically, "a little," or "none" to each in turn. You must realize that there is no way a student would speak up and defend him self or herself- to argue with the Percussion Teacher is tantamount to treason. Reid was labeled as a "none." He did not flinch, nor signify disagreement, although I have heard him practice this summer, although he lives drumming and plays his drum set. Because in his mind, compared to what he should have practiced, compared to the hours a day consuming thing that percussion is, he had indeed achieved a "none." I am sure that entire Drumline, labeled nones and littles, had practiced as well, but they were doubtless all of the same mindset as Reid.

You would have to understand that this experience is so eerily akin to BootCamp that it is startling. I was married to a Marine Recruiter. I remember well the DEP process, and then the Basic Training experience. The Marine Corps is a pinnacle example of breaking a "man" down, and re-forming him into a Marine instead. This is what the Drumline does. They break you down, so as to reform you as a Flash Of Crimson Percussionist. To get where they are, 11th in World WGI standings last year, this is a necessary process. I understand that. Sometimes I just wonder at times if it is the right thing for my child, my teenager, my son.

After labeling the littles and nones, the percussion Director asked the group if anyone came into this practice session with a firm belief that their "spot" was established on a particular instrument or position. No one raised their hand except for Reid, even knowing he had just been identified as a none. Realize that no one was supposed to raise their hand. They were to display proper humility. They were to show their understanding that their lack of discipline over the summer had lead to a guarantee of nothing. This is no commentary on all the kids who did not raise their hands, because they were doing exactly the right thing. They are all talented, and many probably had earned the right, as upperclassmen, to feel they had indeed earned their spot.

So what happened? The Director looked at Reid and said, "Well, at least he is honest." I mean, these Directors aren't Tyrants. Mr. Tucker has exceptional skill at making these kids into what they need to be to compete at this level. But I hope he appreciates Reid's determination to stand firm in his own individuality sometimes. Occasionally. Because Drumline isn't about individuality. There are other times when Reid has stood alone for some internal principle at percussion practice. That can be a sign of a natural leader. We shall see on that front.

Where we moved from in Arkansas, every new school Reid went to would initially resist his individuality, and then give in under his relentless onslaught of charm and achievement... Spelling Bee champ, Quiz Bowl Captain, Comic Genius of talent shows, Outstanding Percussionist of the year twice, Lead role and runaway star of local theater production...I'm saying this because Oh MY God was he trouble in a lot of ways for his teachers. The talking, the drumming, the joking, the flirting, the challenges he repeatedly presented to their viewpoints and even teaching methods. His disdain for you if you were not up to his standards for a teacher. I'm not saying this is a good thing. I'm telling you that this is who Reid has been from the moment he was born, and all his parents have managed to do is provide some shaping, smoothing, and refinement. And I back him up, 100%. Name me a great achievement made by someone who went along with all the rules. Tell me of the invention that changed things that was made by someone who never took chances...who didn't think for himself....

I am inordinately proud of him. He is nothing but himself. And he cares deeply for others- an intensely loyal and generous friend.

I just don't know what this BootCamp experience is going to do to him. I know what it can do FOR him, make him a far far better percussionist, make him a team member and maybe even a leader. I just have to believe that nothing can shake the Viking from his ship. And maybe only he will get that reference. Go for it, Reid Eriksson Cole. Give it everything you've got, and take everything it has to give.

ps, your mom loves you.


  1. And I might add, Tabitha Wheelwright figures prominently in here...

  2. Wrinkledman, that is my favorite modern novel of all time, hands down. I read it to the boys when Guy was about 15 and Reid 11. They were engrossed and moved, and I hope it changed them a tiny bit as John Irving's novels have changed me. He is my favorite American author. I believe I have read them all, except for his newest. I love Son of the Circus, and The Fourth Hand...oh, and A Widow For One Year...
    Thank you for the comparison to Tabby. That is delightful. Because of her, I have never owned a red dress. hahaha

  3. I only just read it, so it is fresh in my mind. I borrowed it from the library after reading his latest, Last Night in Twisted River...get it. Read it. I'm with you, he's a fantastic story teller. I have A Widow for One Year stacked with my latest grab from the library beside my armchair, waiting.

  4. Though you brought Owen into my life, I was distracted by life and only read portions. I was reminded of Dickens, which didn't quite fit at the time. But the plot and the basics were intriguing, and you certainly know my penchant for spiritual enlightenment. I didn't realize there was an actual Owen Meany, via New Hampshire. Although you would look grand in red, I am certainly trying my best to ensure you don't have to play the role!

    As to Reid - well, what is to be said of a being like Reid? There IS no other as such. I've never been around 'kid" such as this so much, who was all that you communicated so well above. Even more stuff that might defy description. I don't recall you ever creating a poem along the lines of above; that could be beautiful.

    With this heartfelt piece you've brought something into existence that virtually no humans will ever receive in their life. Ever. Something that has already changed and helped your son in ways that perhaps daily conversation could never hope to, as you shared with me. Good job, Ma. You are something of awe.