As I drove home I began reflecting on the many places I've played over the years, the musicians I've known, the experiences I've had - and what they taught me. I decided to at least partially catalog them here. To be honest, I've forgotten about many and the details are fuzzy about others. But bear with me. This will probably take up a few blog entries and I hope what you'll read won't turn out to be too boring. The bottom line is that I'm doing this as much for myself as for my readers' entertainment.
So I'll start from the start.
My family has been musicians for many generations, going back (at least) to my great grandfather who played clarinet with the original P.T Barnum Circus band in 1888 - 1890. My grandfather conducted the Army Band; my uncle played trumpet with the Fred Waring Orchestra in the 1930s and my dad was a very fine professional drummer who toured extensively with Big Bands in the 1940s, after which he continued to gig locally for many years. My brother plays trumpet with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. So as you can see, my fate was sealed as far as music was concerned.
My first instrument was the drums, not surprisingly. It is no accident that I'm named Gene as Gene Krupa was my dad's favorite drummer. I began playing when I was about 5 years old, learning the strict rudimentary system of drumming. So strict in fact that I was not allowed to play an actual drum until I'd spent a couple years perfecting my flams and paradiddles and seven-stroke rolls on a rubber-topped practice pad. My dad, while one of the kindest and funniest people I've ever known was as Old School as they come when it came to learning a musical instrument: this is WORK, dammit! Get it right!
It was such a strict regimen that I was required to practice for at least a half hour every day when I got home from school, while my friends were in the field behind our house in Mystic, Connecticut playing ball. By the time I reached age 12 I was a pretty darn good drummer - but I hated it. After a terrible experience playing in a junior fife and drum corp (that music being another of my dad's passions - he was the drum section leader in the Deep River Ancient Fife & Drum Corps) I decided one day to quit playing the drums. My father was devastated but I had learned something: to teach a musical instrument effectively the student needs to WANT to play, and the only way that could be accomplished was by positive reinforcement from the teacher, which results in the student feeling good about their playing.
Part 2 tomorrow.
Peace & good music,