My youngest son is an aspiring drummer. He plays in the middle school band, and hopes to make the drum line in high school. Last night, he told me the auditions for the high school line were taking place. He wanted to see how good the drummers were. He's in seventh grade and wants to have his skills in order. Was I impressed with this line of thinking? You bet your drum key!
There was a room of nervous kids, from twelve to sixteen years old. Everyone was trying to be funny and gain some social capital from the group. They were presided over, by some David Spade clone, that was there to assess them. His mission was to make them pay for the cruel genetic roulette, that made him a great music student, but prevented him from having a female in his life. Yes, he was wearing painters pants from Old Navy. Yes, he was wearing crocs. Yes, his hair was cut by a flowbee. Yes, he could play, and had a vast amount of musical knowledge. Yes, he planned on torturing these kids.
The kids had to get up in front of the group and play whatever rudiments (scales for drummers) he decided they should know. The object of this exercise was to find out what they couldn't play, and make a joke of the kid on the chopping block. Next they had to sight read several pieces of snare and bell music, until they failed. While the kids played, the Spade made inside jokes, whispered to his court, and made notes sealing the fate of the kids, playing for their lives.
This ripped the scab off every memory I had of academic music. I remembered every twit that had hazed me from middle school through college. I remembered the happy day, I bid them all a fine "F#*^ YOU!" and went on to play clubs, tour, and record for the next twenty years.
The problem is, I also walked away from my dream of being part of a college drum line. I never got my degree. These are a couple of items on my short list of regrets. Also, it should be noted that, the times I spent in my high school drum line were amazing, once I got through the initiation. I loved playing the cadences and the halftime shows. I gained skills during those years that served me as a musician, and a person.
My son is small for his age, like I was. He has the attitude of a ten foot Gorilla, like I do. He is in for a rough ride, and I know it's not healthy to insulate your kids from their life trials. Still, I think the firm hand shake and the "I will kill you, and pick my teeth with your bones" stare Mr. Spade and I shared, may help a little.