School Band Might Not Challenge Ambitious Drummers
Don’t Like School Band?
Ambitious drummers can find an alternative to quitting.
I had a disappointing spell about a year into drum lessons where I almost quit. Lucky for me, beginning the drum set was right around the corner, and playing drum set was the main reason I wanted to play drums. Once that happened, I was unstoppable.
Unfortunately, some of the preliminary drum skills do not induce excitement for drum students. For this reason, it is important for the drum student to have a personal motivation to learn the drums. This goal will get them through the less-enjoyable, but essential, fundamentals and allow them to master the instrument later. A good foundation will pay off.
Non-percussionists in band have more to learn during the beginning, which can leave ambitious drummers bored. Even at the college level, percussion parts in wind or symphonic band and orchestra are often supplemental to the other “essential” instruments (winds and brass). It is rare that the virtuosic performances demanded of the melodic soloists is equally demanded of percussionists.
Drummers can progress at a pace more fitting their potential by studying on their own or with a private instructor. As you probably know, taking drum lessons can get drummers to the fun stuff quicker, however, the less-exciting responsibilities must still be endured in the school band setting.
School band can leave an advanced drummer feeling restless, but needn’t do so if that advanced student can act as a tutor to those less advanced.
Another school-related way to be more satisfied is by participating in the annual solo and ensemble festival. The WSMA Solo and Ensemble Festival allows the more advanced drummers to perform at their level instead of being limited to the band’s level. If your school does not participate, visit the WSMA website. See Eligibility Requirements, section C.
I believe drummers do not have as much opportunity to develop as other instrumentalists in the school band setting (for reasons mentioned above). I would estimate the average school band percussionist is 2-4 years behind their potential level by the time they graduate high school if they do not study drums outside of the school band program.
The main question for any aspiring drummer is, do you want to learn drums? If your answer is ‘yes’, then all you need is the opportunity to pursue it. See what you need to begin learning drums.
Should I Quit School Band?
If you are considering quitting school band, have a discussion with your drum teacher and explain your concerns. Your drum teacher may be able to improve your school band experience. Or, your drum teacher may adjust your lessons to let you achieve your drumming goals without school band.
If you are the parent of a drummer who wants to quit school band, make sure you understand your child’s concerns and then talk with the band director about your child’s concerns. The solution may be as simple as arranging for your child to take drum lessons. Inquire about taking drum lessons at Sheboygan Drums.
What Can Drummers Do?
Start an advanced drum group at school.
School band teachers are glad to support extra involvement of drummers in their school band. If you are a drummer and want to do more with your drumming at school, talk to your band director or school principal. They may have suggestions and they will be interested in hearing ideas you have.
Band teachers are busy. Just because they haven’t created a percussion ensemble, doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in it. Talk with your band teacher about starting a percussion ensemble. The school may consider it a club or extracurricular activity, and schools are generally supportive of student-initiated groups like this.
Ambitious drummers may need to create their own opportunities. If you want to do more, don’t wait for your band teacher to provide the opportunity – think of your own, organize your idea, and present it to your band teacher or school principal. Be courteous and professional, and be willing to consider their suggestions or requirements. With this approach, you can create a beneficial opportunity that you and your school can enjoy.
Be A Responsible Drummer
We all know drummers are cool. Being irresponsible is not cool.
It is a privilege to use the professional equipment available at your school and it’s important for school drummers, especially successful ones, to ensure the equipment is treated correctly.
For more insight into this subject, see my School Band article.
Don’t be obnoxious. Drums are loud. Be aware of classes and activities occurring nearby and be respectful.
- Schedule your drum practice times to avoid interrupting others.
- Choose a practice room that will least interfere with other students and teachers.
- Don’t abuse the percussion equipment. It’s normal for drummers to be excited when they have the opportunity to experiment with percussion equipment. But, this stuff is expensive. The last thing you want to do is abuse or damage the school’s equipment and disqualify yourself from using it.
Protect Your Hearing
Drummers are at greater risk of hearing damage than other musicians. Hearing damage is permanent. If you are considering organizing a drum group, learn how to Protect Your Hearing.
Drummers seeking greater challenges and opportunities in school band can blaze their own trail. If you’re a drummer feeling unchallenged by your school band, don’t let it limit your potential.
A benefit for a drummer in the school band is that you can play in an ensemble setting. Participating in ensembles is an important activity for developing as a drummer and musician. If you excel as an advanced drummer, you can assist less-experienced drummers in the drum section.
Talk to your drum teacher or band director if you’d like to organize an advanced drum group at your school.