The Hero's Journey


While I was back home for the holidays I went and saw the most recent Star Wars movie (The Rise of Skywalker) with my nephew. I...don' the critics say, I love the classic hero's journey storyline no matter what, even with annoying animatronics. It has existed since the beginning of time, and most likely will exist forever, in galaxies far far away.

Professor Joseph Campbell famously broke down the patterns of a hero's journey into 12 steps, which have been applied to countless movie plots, The Matrix, The Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Lion King, and Spiderman to name a few.

So of course I thought, why not apply this to learning the drums! I took Campbell's 12 steps and condensed them into 7, giving examples from my past and present along the way. Go through the steps for yourself and think about where you are, where you started, and where you want to go? Anyone even considering to take up the drums have already entered step 1 (The Call).  So take the call and start the journey.

1. The Call: What drew you to taking up drums, an experience, song, band, person?

This is one of the clearest things for me. When I was a kid in the 90s, my very favorite band of all time were (and still are) The President of the United States of America. I was obsessed with them so much so that I'd go home after school, put on one of their albums, blast it on my headphones, and play along on my pieced together drum kit as long as I could before my dad would get home from work. This became almost a daily activity.

2. The Threshold: Into the Unknown with Guardians, Helpers, and Mentors.

I've always felt fortunate to have had really good teachers and mentors since the beginning. Taking private lessons was a huge step into the unknown for me, it was the first time I was really immersed in the drummer world and seeing the potential right in front of me was eyeopening.

3. The Challenges: Tests, Allies, Enemies.

Physically learning the mechanics of playing drums took me many years. Studying with teachers, working through different books, learning various styles, and playing with a lot of musicians all brought new challenges with them. I met many lifelong friends at this time, as well as people who were vying for my spot, not really enemies but I could certainly feel the pressure.

4. The Ordeal: What has been the ultimate challenge so far, internally or externally or both?

My biggest challenge was myself. The highest benchmark as far as I was concerned in high school was becoming the drummer in the school jazz band, this was the pinnacle. I was basically next in line after the previous one graduated, but I was so fucking scared and nervous. There's no where to hide when you're the drummer playing with 15 other musicians, no where.  Through a lot of encouragement and sheer will I slowly gained the confidence to match my skills.

5. The Transformation and Reward: Did you conquer the ordeal and any fear that came with it? Do you have a new outlook on life?

A lot of hard work, practice, failure, and patience took place before I was able to overcome most of my internal insecurities and really start to become a player in my own right. The reward I got from these years in my life was the conviction to start my own bands and ultimately pursue music as a career.

6. The Resurrection: Climax, Final battle, Near-death experience.

For me, relocating to NYC has been my resurrection in many ways. I'm no longer competing with my fellow classmates in a small suburb but with some of the top musicians in the world, in a heavily competitive city.  Interestedly enough, the move started a whole new hero's journey with NYC being the new threshold.

7. Return Home:  With a Gift, Cure, Elixir, Potion.

I think of this not as physically returning home, but rather coming full circle as a player and becoming a teacher. The extensive knowledge and experience I have gained over the last 20 years I use as teaching tools to new students, it's my elixir.

- Closing thought -

Learning drums is a journey just like any other pursuit in life. Enjoy the path and take time to celebrate your accomplishments big and small. I look back fondly on those days of uncertainty, risk, unpredictability and continue to pursue new challenges every day. The journey continuously repeats itself as many times as you choose. Sometimes a step can take a very long time and sometimes a step needs to be repeated, but it's all part of the process.

So, young Padawan, let your journey begin...