Practice Makes (Almost) Perfect

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with my cousin, R, who will soon be graduating from Michigan State with a Master’s in Music.  He’s a drummer and, in my opinion (and the opinion of others’ who’ve heard him play), has mad talent.

His college jazz group was participating in a local college festival over the weekend (apparently, this is a rather prestigious annual event) and this young man, born the year I graduated from high school, called to invite me to come listen and hang out.  I have to admit it makes me feel pretty good that my young cousin thinks I’m fun to hang with.

Ouch.  I wrenched my arm, patting myself on the back…

Drumming runs in my family.  My paternal grandfather played the drums.  My father played in high school and then the local city band.  I wanted to learn to play, but my parents weren’t up for the noise that would have emanated from the garage while I practiced.  They probably thought the neighbors wouldn’t appreciate it either.  They may have had a point.

Grandpa and Dad played single drums during their day.  R plays a drum kit, carries his own cymbals with him everywhere, and is a virtuoso in the arena of jazz music.  He epitomizes what I’ve always imagined a jazz musician to be: hip and centered, laid back and grounded.  For a 20-something man, he’s got a remarkable head on his shoulders and, as my Mom puts it, an old soul.  Maybe you have to be an old soul to feel and play music like he does.  It lives in him.

I took a little video of the performance, shown below.  He’s hidden way in the back (why do they hide the drummer in the back?) so, unless you know where to look, you won’t see him, but you can hear the drums.  That primal beat, complete with riff and rim-shot and toe-tapping rhythm.

(Note: I wasn’t able to upload the video, so I tried the embed feature instead.  If all that shows in this final post is gobbledy-gook, please click the Facebook hyperlink and the video should play)

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As I watched R and his ensemble play, I couldn’t help but compare his musical training to that of the writer.

From the time he was a child, he wanted to play drums.  His parents encouraged him when he went to college, where his formal training began.  Much like writing, playing a musical instrument is something that can be learned.  But to be truly exceptional, there must be an innate love for the art.  R has that love.

Those of us who are called to write run the gamut from the classically trained (i.e. majored in the subject) to those who know little about the craft but are compelled to put words on a page because something is lacking within us if we don’t.  We practice and practice to become (almost) perfect in our story-telling.

Regardless of our background, those of us who carry an innate love of the craft have the potential to be exceptional.  We can choose to share our gift, or hoard it close to our hearts.

An ardor for writing cannot help but call to those who read our words.  We, as writers, have the potential to build worlds, create dreams, instill hope, and bring spine-shivering chills to our readers.  Music, played by someone with passion, can do the same.

Art is life, regardless of form.

What are you doing with your art?