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Being Blue Part 1 - A Story About Growing Up to Drum for the Blue Man Group

Becoming Blue Doesn’t Just Happen…or Does It? I have had a lot of people ask me over the years how I got a job drumming for the Blue Man Group. Despite what many may think, that it was the result of being the best drummer at auditions, I tend to think it was rather a culmination of many things I’ve worked on my whole life. Drumming ability is just one aspect of the gig. But, there are many intangibles that you just cannot teach overnight. Being humble and persistent, confident but not cocky, and having the ability to learn and adapt quickly are probably the most overlooked qualities that young drummers should adopt.

Trust me, these things are what take you places. It’s not always about being able to rip 4-2-1 Triplet Flam-Drag Grids, using Dennis DeLucia “heavies” at 200 bpm for 20 minutes straight. Doesn’t hurt, of course, but there’s so much to be said for adapting quickly, and as many musicians will say, “being ready to go when the opportunity comes is absolutely critical.” I think “making it” as a professional drummer really boils down to 50% hard work and 50% willingness to jump at a chance. Here’s what I mean… I started out your typical basement drummer in my younger years, trying to replicate every Neil Peart lick ever recorded (still awesome stuff, btw…you young whipper-snappers should check it out…) on my hand-me-down, clear Ludwig Vistalite drum set that I received from my older brother. I practiced so much on that thing that I drove my parents crazy on a daily basis.

I still remember my dad yelling downstairs that he couldn’t hear the news. Any stomping coming from the kitchen floor above was usually not meant to get me to shut up, but rather to signal that dinner was ready. I played, at minimum, two hours a day, and I think I broke everything on the kit, from bass drum pedal straps to almost every lug on one of the toms. We couldn’t afford to replace anything really, but my dad was a good sport about it, and despite the ensuing noise it would produce, he found a way to fix every part. Eventually, I found my way into marching band in middle school, because I just thought the high school drum line looked like a bunch of studs. I went after the snare drum, because it seemed the most technically challenging, and at the time, the quads looked pretty heavy…and perhaps weren’t getting as much attention from the girls. I had the right aptitude and drive for it, so it came pretty naturally. Jazz band was a different story. I can still remember my band instructor asking me if I would be interested in trying out for the jazz band, and I thought, “Cool, I could play drum set. Wait a minute, does that mean I would have to play OLD PEOPLE stuff???”

Shortly thereafter, my decision was swayed when I watched them perform a screaming-horn rendition of “Dr. Feelgood” (yes…by Motley Crue) at the next basketball game. I was hooked. Several years later, I found myself doing the usual drummer thing in college, playing snare drum for the University of Wisconsin Marching Band and also drum set for our show choir, the Wisconsin Singers. While playing drums for a Big Ten football team is highly recommended for the “time of your life,” I was searching for a little more technical training on my instrument, and this would lead me down an entirely different path.

Check in Next week for Part 2 of 3

 Damion Sanchez

Topics: drum set

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