‘It’s never too late to start anything new’ was music to my ears.

By Abbe Aronson | Photography by Vickie Muller

When the editor in chief sent over the theme for this issue, I almost leapt in the air and clicked my heels, like I was a lovesick fool in a Turner Classic Movies oldie to whom something miraculous had just happened. Because something miraculous has happened. I’m a drummer. 

Nearly everyone around me whom I admire plays music and I, after an utterly unsatisfying dabble in violin lessons as a kid, could only say that I love music in all its forms, but that making music escapes me. I can turn on the stereo, flip over a record, buy concert tix like a pro, but I can’t sing a note and have never done karaoke (there are not enough cocktails in the world to make that happen).

After a love affair with a bass player, a guy with a local cover band, the Top Brass in that band turned to me and said, “Well?” And I knew what he meant. I’d been threatening to start drum lessons so that Lover Boy and I could play together on a song with the band. 

Carpe diem. “I’m in,” I told him. “When you start planning the next performance, I’ll be behind a drum kit.”

Tip: Playing drums, learning how to play and hearing myself get better as I practice—it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Ever. 

This was spring 2022. Rock Academy, the music school based in Woodstock, has an adult program that draws about 25-30 people of various skill sets, and the “band” performs over a weekend several times a year, after about three months of once-a-week rehearsals. After I gulped and said yes to Top Brass, I received the official email welcoming me and the other adults to the fall season. It was happening. Then I started panicking. 

Obviously, I had no idea what to do behind a kit, except sit down, pick up sticks and bang away. I knew the names of the drums and I knew, based on playing music 24/7, that certain drums made certain sounds and that those sounds had a pattern of sorts in different types of music. I also knew that I could keep a beat—I can clap or stomp the hell out of a song and if you’re in the car with me, it’s a safe bet that I’m keeping time on the steering wheel. 

First up, I had to get a set of drums for home. Easier than you think. All you need to do is post on social media something like this: “Does anyone have a kid who got bored with drums and now you’ve got a kit languishing in your basement or attic?” Bingo. My pal John Pelosi even dropped off the kit at my house, in a jumble of unknown parts. “All yours,” he practically screamed. My soon-to-be (long-suffering) drum teacher Macky Bowman (drummer extraordinaire, known around these parts as the stickman for The Bobby Lees) came over and assembled it. And then it was countdown ’til our first rehearsal with the band, with Macky giving me some extra lessons to get me going. 

On the first day of band rehearsal, when our director called one of the songs that I was on, I have to be honest, I nearly fainted. What followed next was about ten weeks of sheer horror and delight, my heart pounding every time I was called up to play at rehearsal, both because of my own Type A personality to “play it perfectly” and my astonishment at how much I loved any time I got to play, mistakes and all. And when I played something well? The joy that flowed from every pore on my body, along with sweat and tears, was something I’d never expect to feel from middle-aged me. Me who thought I had sort of done it all, seen it all. I hadn’t. Not by a long shot.

I’ve now been playing for about a year-and-a-half, and I’ve gigged with our band five times. Sometimes I stink. Sometimes I soar. I’ve surprised myself beyond my wildest dreams. I’m a drummer now. I’m a drummer!

Drum Major

If you wanna find your joy, Adult Rock Academy is open to all levels of players! Yes, they’ve got kids lessons, too. RockAcademy.com

Got a musical instrument at home and don’t know how to start? Easy! Search YouTube like this: “isolated drums for Livin’ On A Prayer” or any song you want to play (”isolated guitar,” “isolated bass”). You’ll find endless sources of musicians to teach you any song you want

Esoteric but true: learning a song you don’t necessarily like gives you a whole other skill set and trains your ear to forever hear differently. A “learning something new” joyful moment

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