The Movie Diary

Drumming up some talent

By Dom Cioffi

One day, just before Christmas a couple years ago, my brother-in-law pulled me aside to ask a question. He walked me into a spare room and pointed to several cardboard boxes that were in the corner, asking me if I was interested in the contents.

I wandered over and peeled one of the flaps back to reveal several pieces to a drum kit. He explained that the set belonged to his oldest son, who had since moved on to other interests. They were dusty and disheveled, but he assured me that once attended to, they could be a viable kit if my son was interested.

I decided to take him up on his offer even though my son had never expressed any interest in playing the drums. I hauled the boxes into my truck and a few days later pulled into a local music store to ask for assistance. I was lucky because the young man who helped me had a keen understanding of what it would take to bring the kit up to acceptable standards. He replaced all the drum heads, set me up with some quality used cymbals, and made sure any missing hardware was replaced. He even polished everything up.

When I loaded all the pieces back into my truck, it looked like a new set of drums!

After my son went to bed on Christmas Eve, I pulled all the contents into our living room and painstakingly set the kit up, following a picture I found online to make sure everything was in the right spot.
When my son awoke the next morning, he marveled at the drum set, immediately grabbing the sticks in an attempt to make noise. He seemed genuinely excited, which made me genuinely excited. Needless to say, there seemed to be no inherent skill in that initial session.

Later, we moved the kit into the room above the garage and started a search for a drum teacher who was willing to come to the house for lessons. Through a friend-of-a-friend we found a local musician who was both highly skilled and reasonably priced.

Since then, every week on Monday night, Mike shows up with a coffee in hand to take my son through a variety of drills. My wife and I generally sit in the living room and listen. Some weeks we smile at his evolving ability, other times we wonder if it’s worth the money. When they’re finished, homework is assigned to work on throughout the week.

Inevitably, every other weeknight, I have to remind my son to go through his lessons. I never dreamed that getting him to sit down to practice for 20 minutes would involve so much coercion. At some points, we’ve had all our battles, with me threatening to pull the plug on the whole endeavor if he doesn’t show more commitment.

Over this past summer, we sent our son to two separate weeklong music camps. One of the camps focused on the music of the Beatles, while the other focused on the Rolling Stones. The camps matched up young musicians of equal ability and then had them work on several songs for five straight days.

When Friday night arrived, all the parents and any friends gathered together at a local club where the kids put on a legitimate rock show.

Talk about fun!

Admittedly, some of the songs had seen better interpretations, but a few of the more accessible tunes didn’t sound half bad. And to see my son attacking the skins and holding the back beat made me the proudest dad ever. Since those shows, my son’s interest in the drums has increased. Not only is it easier to get him to practice, but I’ve also noticed that he’s listening to songs by famous drummers, trying to emulate some of their styles.

Who knows if this will keep up, but I’m pretty impressed that in two short years my son has turned into a legitimate musician.

This week’s film also features a budding musician, albeit a guitarist rather than a drummer. “Coco” is the story of a young Mexican boy who is drawn to the music of his hero, a deceased mariachi singer in the vein of Elvis who is admired by everyone in the country. The only problem is that the boy’s family has deemed music off-limits.

Leave it to Pixar to deliver another spectacular film that is not only bursting with unimaginable visuals, but also seeded with a storyline that keeps viewers of all ages captivated.

Check this one out if you’re a fan of great storytelling. The music may not be as memorable as other Pixar offerings, but everything else is stellar.

A rock-steady “B+” for “Coco.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]

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