A nearly decade-old drumset has a rich Philadelphia history, one that includes being a part of a keynote speech.
It was 2006 when I acquired a small, blonde maple jazz drumset for less than two hundred dollars, it made the perfect travel kit, as that period of my life was consumed with playing drums at live performances; in the recording studio; in church; in contests and even in the street.
The drumset I used at performances prior to obtaining the small 4 piece kit was a massive high-end maple setup, also 4 pieces, which I played on the night the legendary Five Spot in Old City Philadelphia burned to the ground.
The band I was in were among the last performers to ever grace that stage, which in times past hosted Ms. Jill Scott, The Roots and Musiq SoulChild.
The burden of a gigging drummer, for me, became a lot easier, as the smaller setup could be thrown in the trunk of a car and it was so cheap that scratches and dents were of little consequence to me.
It was also small enough to take on the street with ease. The first video I did with it, at my elementary school’s yard, was called “Sounds of the City.” The second was called “Shadows of a Storm” and I played this session by a lake in South Philadelphia.
Shortly after that taping, the little drumset found itself on quite a big stage: Pinnacle nightclub in Center City Philadelphia, playing for a chance to skip the line in New York City at an audition for P. Diddy’s and MTV’s new show, “Making His Band.”
That night, I became the only drummer in Philadelphia to win a pass to the front of the line in New York City, where thousands were gathered on the day of auditions for their shot at stardom.
I didn’t make it beyond the New York City auditions and, admittedly frustrated by what I felt was an unfair tryout, I stacked the drums up in a corner for awhile and took a break from the beat.
The little drumset made a couple appearances at Philadelphia churches, but the big stages and cool videos seemed elusive, mainly because I wasn’t as inspired; I started to doubt my skills; failing the New York City auditions impacted me more than I thought.
In late 2009, the same year of the auditions, I decided to do something different: I started a technology company called Techbook Online, which originally was going to be in the college E-book business but quickly morphed into a news and event company, today standing as the largest and most active publisher on Comcast’s www.PhillyinFocus.com.
Now, a budding journalist, many, including myself, asked where would the Flood the Drummer persona – a street drummer with a flair for media – fit in at a news organization.
It wasn’t hard for me to answer that question, as I had a vision in mind: I wanted the little drumset to be the center attraction and bring balance to a heavy-issued news platform.
In 2013 – in addition to having the little drumset photographed in Jump Philly magazine along with an article about the health benefits of drumming – several opportunities came, including a millennial entrepreneurial summit sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the nation’s largest journalism funder.
I was asked to give the keynote address; I wanted to play the drums, and so what eventually was presented to the youthful audience was a DJ (Rashaun “DJ Reezey” Williams) and myself using our instruments to illustrate idea and business development. To my knowledge, it was the first time a drumset was used in a mainstream environment to lecture about entrepreneurship.
After that September event, the big stages and cool videos were again a fancy of mine. I, along with the little drumset, on the last day of International Drum Month 2014 appeared in Center City Philadelphia at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.
Four months later, in September – almost exactly a year from the date when I gave the keynote address – the little drumset, along with his bigger black sparkle counterpart, appeared on a stage in the courtyard of City Hall for Drum Duel, a drum competition organized by Techbook Online where the winner was decided by ballot.
Almost a decade after purchase, the kit has paid for itself 100 times over. But more important than the return on investment, the Philadelphia history of my traveling drumset represents life’s process.
The drums have seen failure, success, isolation, companionship, rain, sunshine and the absence of spirit. As with life, the purpose of the drums depends solely on the person in control of it. It can be used to entertain, edutain or neither.
So live life and keep the beat, and remember you’ll face challenges and will sometimes feel small, but the big stages are waiting for you and you control of the tempo of when you get there.
* Tune into 900amWURD or 900amWURD.com every Friday evening at 6:30pm to hear me relive #TheWeekThatWas*
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™