Meet Evan, the 5 year old teacher

I first met Evan on his fifth birthday.  He and his best friend Rosie were taking a birthday drum lesson with me.  Right away, I could tell these kids were obsessed with music. Literally, they were running from instrument to instrument, singing, playing, and so excited by their own creativity.

So after the lesson, Evan’s mom Renee asked if he would be able to take drum lessons. “He was always interested in drums but I wasn’t really sure he’d sit through a lesson,” says Renee. Like Renee, most parents are worried that their children aren’t mature enough or are too young to benefit from lessons.

However, after a year of drum lessons, Evan can read music, play a drumbeat, and has become a stronger listener.  “Every week we see an improvement in his skill level and it’s also a big boost to his confidence. He likes the drums because ‘it’s really fun’ and he’s ‘really good at it’.  He feels very proud of his ability to play and enjoys making up his own beats and even teaching his friends and family,” says Renee.

One of our most memorable lessons was when Evan learned how to respect and care for musical instruments.

During that lesson, I noticed that he was playing the drum set with such fervor.  I was sure that the instruments were going to break.  After taking a closer look, I saw he was actually experimenting with sound.  To the untrained ear, it seemed like noise, but he was methodically testing the drums and experimenting with new sounds.

So, I took apart the drum set and showed him how to put it back together again, emphasizing how to care for our instruments if we want them to make music. It was a beautiful moment, seeing Evan carefully reassembling each drum and cymbal.  But that was only part of the lesson.

Once the drum set was setup, he started playing again, but this time he sounded kinder and more aware that he was playing a musical instrument, not just a noisemaker.

Since that lesson, Evan has made big strides playing music, using feelings and dynamics to tell stories with music.  I look forward to seeing how he develops his sense of sound and communicates his ideas on the drums and above all, I am thankful for his approach to the drum set.  His unflagging pursuit of sound tests the boundaries of what instruments are capable of.

Evan has taught me, that experimentation, no matter what stage in life or music you are in,  is essential to your growth.  Yes, I am a trained, professional musician.  I’ve practiced for decades,  but often my expectations of practice and development lead my music down paths that are often familiar and safe.

But by boldly experimenting, listening, and testing what seems crude or silly, we can find new ways to express ourselves and thus new ways to listen to others.

Like Cat Stevens sings, “there are a million ways to be.”  There are so many ways to sing out, to play out, all of which are valid.  Even what you might consider ‘noise,’ is really a form of expression, waiting to be understood by you, the listener.

So next time I’m practicing, I’ll try to be a little more forgiving toward my ‘mistakes.’ I’ll try to understand them and listen to their nuances.  Who knows, maybe that mistake will be the perfect embodiment of a moment in time… or even the next big discovery.

Watch Evan play the drums

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