Back when I was a child I never asked for much. I never had much of an interest in toys and spent most of my time alone. Even at the age of 8 I was a deep thinker, always questioning why things happen the way they do. I was constantly observing the world around me as if I was on the outside. I learned to appreciate silence at such a young age and didn’t speak much. I only spoke when I was spoken to, and even then I’d give a short response. I felt like I had so much to say but never found the right way to say it. I never found my voice until my eighth birthday when I had received a present that would forever change my life and give me a voice. My parents knew that I had a deep interest in music, heavy metal in particular, and would often catch me outside pretending to play drums with small twigs as drumsticks and various sized rocks for drums. My stepfather was a singer and he played in bands all the time so I was used to seeing musical instruments and recording equipment throughout the house. I used to tell my mom that I wanted to be a talented drummer someday so I could be in a band with my stepfather.
For about three months my mom kept hinting that if I was good, went to school, and made sure I was always cleaning up after myself that I would get a special present on my birthday. So along comes my birthday and we pull up to my grandmother’s house, which is where all my birthday parties were, and I can see all the Halloween decorations that she had made herself. My birthday is on October 28th so we always had Halloween parties for my birthday. My whole family would dress up in whatever they want, my grandmother would decorate the living room and kitchen with various creepy Halloween Jack o lanterns, fake spiders hanging from the ceiling which was made to look like a giant spider web, and the infamous electronic bat that she would hang on the ceiling fan so it looked like it was flying around in circles. The bat would often fly off the fan and hit someone in the head or get in someone’s food. It was something that everybody would be afraid to admit they actually enjoy. Even though it’s dangerous, everyone would burst out laughing and start talking about how they knew it would happen eventually.
I don’t remember too much about the actual party and I really can’t recall what presents I had gotten from other family members. All that was on my mind was what my mom had said 3 months prior. I made sure I was doing well in school, made my bed every morning and washed my dishes after I would eat. I was trying my best to be a good boy so I could get that “special present” that my mom had told me about. The party was slowing down and everyone was leaving so I got to say goodbye to everyone but I was pretty upset and let down. I got many gifts but none were what I actually wanted: a drum set. My parents and I were getting ready to leave and my excitement from the day had quickly faded. I just sulked around for the last few minutes while my mom packed up all my stuff and said goodbye to my grandmother. My mom looked at me while we were walking to the car and said, “Joey, don’t look so sad. There’s one more gift waiting for you at home. It was too big to bring to your grandmas.” She had a big smile on her face and in that moment I knew exactly what she was talking about.
Upon arriving at home I ran out of the car, up the stairs, and waited impatiently for my parents to hurry up and unlock the front door. They yelled to me, “Don’t you want your gifts out of the trunk before we go inside?” I truly didn’t care about those other gifts, so I just stood where I was and waited, bouncing up and down with a huge grin on my face. My mom came and unlocked the door quickly because she knew what I was waiting for. As soon as we went inside I ran off like a little maniac, running through the entire house, looking for a drum set. My mother seemed to be in shock. Normally I was a quiet and composed kid, but here I was running around, screaming, and she didn’t know what to do. As I ran by her for about the fifth time, she grabbed my arm and told me to relax and she would show me my present. She said it was in the basement but she wanted me to walk slowly with her so I didn’t fall down the stairs. We went down and at the bottom was this big thing covered with a giant sheet.
I knew I had gotten what I’ve been wanting: A drum set. When I had first looked at it I was in complete amazement. This wasn’t a child sized drum set, which I’ve seen in music magazines. I was already big for my age so my parents didn’t want to buy something for me that I would grow out of quickly. So they decided to buy me a $2500 7-piece Pearl drum set. It was huge! My entire body at the time could have fit inside the floor toms and the bass drums. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. It was painted all white and the drumheads were clear so I could see the inside of each drum. I remember staring in amazement just looking at the wood on the inside wondering how they get it to bend so perfectly into the shape of a circle. The first few moments looking at the drums are the fondest memories I have of my childhood. The way the light gleamed off of the shiny gold cymbals was mesmerizing and the smell of the wood was so strong that it had imagined the entire drum set being cut from trees and put together all in my basement just for me. A feeling of stillness and calm washed over me like a tide.
For the first time in my life, even at that young age, I had felt fully at peace. It’s almost indescribable how intense this experience was. Before I had even picked up the drumsticks, I knew I had found my calling. It was late in the night and I understood that I wouldn’t be able to play right then and there, but I knew that I was going to start playing bright and early the next morning. That night I had sat up in my room and listened to almost every cd I had, trying to pay attention to the drum parts that I wanted to try and play. Before I knew it, the sun was up and I was ready to play drums for the first time. I decided to wait until my mom woke up before I would startle her out of bed with the loud crashing of cymbals. As soon as she woke up and came out of her room, she saw me sitting quietly at the kitchen table. She knew what I was waiting for and simple said, “Go ahead.” I had ran down the stairs so quickly that I think my feet only touched 2 steps.
I finally picked up the drumsticks and sat down behind the entire drum set and looked out to the objects in the room like random boxes, chairs, and stuff that was down there for storage and pretended that they were all people and I was a rock star playing in front of a huge crowd. I didn’t waste any time and stated swinging the sticks. I had finally found my voice: through music. I seemed to have a natural talent and playing what I felt was easy for me from then on. I played my emotions and spoke my mind through that drum set. It made me feel so much more significant in the world. Playing drums is the most empowering thing I’ve ever found in my life. To this day I still play drums. I’ve been in about a dozen local bands and have played around 100 shows in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Though I currently do not play in bands, I still love playing for myself. It’s the most therapeutic thing for me. It channels all of my sadness, anger, joy, and empathy into a form of art. It’s a healthy outlet for me especially with so many stressors in my life. I need drums in my life to help me deal with certain struggles. Even at my darkest times, my drums and all of my music have been right there with me and help me persevere through any obstacle that comes my way. I’m a drummer and that’s all I ever wanted. Even if I am never famous, I’m still content with everything I continue to create for myself.