On August 10, 2010, I loaded up my Ford Explorer with my practice drum set and about 30 hand drums and percussion instruments from the Remo Recreational Music Center in North Hollywood and headed down the road to the Irvine Outdoor Recreation Center. The guys at Remo (Mike DeMenno and Jerry Zacarias) hooked me up with a great rental deal to make sure the kids all had drums. I cannot thank Remo enough, and I encourage you to check out their recreational music center at http://www.remormc.com

With help from some very enthusiastic volunteers, we lugged the drums and drum set down the steps of the outdoor amphitheater and got things set up pretty quickly. Under a beautiful Southern California summer evening sky, I spoke for about 20 minutes on how drumming had provided me with a therapeutic outlet over the years. I pointed out that it also helped me greatly in becoming a pilot and flight instructor, as I take no meds for my own case of Tourette’s. The four-way coordination I developed over the years has been a blessing many, many times over.

I demonstrated how I play, and how I practice to just relax. I played some basic rock, jazz and Latin beats, emphasizing how the coordination evolved over the years. From there, I handed out the Remo hand drums and percussion instruments to an extremely excited group of kids, ranging from 6 to 18. I taught them the basics of how to play in a drum circle, like watching for volume level changes, dividing the group in half, and how to end a song.

Next, I brought up groups of five kids to play together in front of the crowd of about 45. The parents loved watching their kids play and have fun, and each kid got to solo along with their group.

After that, I brought them all down to the “pit” where the drums were set up, and I had them play along with me as I kept simple beats. They locked in immediately, much faster than I expected, and that was very cool.

I then asked for a few volunteer to play along with me, one on one. There were some very interesting results, all of them enthusiastic. Each kid wanted to explore the sound, follow the beat, and just enjoying playing… and believe me, they did.

After that, I let the kids explore the drum set. Now, we’re talking a HUGE act of faith here, because I brought the 24″ light K ride… every kid who wanted to play got a chance, and many wanted seconds. Always leave ’em wanting more…

As the crowd thinned out a bit after the first hour, I demonstrated how to play in 5 and 7, having the kids and parents count out loud. This was a lot of fun, because in between the simple beats, I threw in a dose or two of very fast patterns. Most people were able to follow, which very cool to see and experience.

To wrap things up, I played and improvised over a fast shuffle. I decided to let a few wild things out, in a musical manner, and it was the most fun I had playing in years. I found that the kids loved just being able to be themselves, and for a few minutes, I too was able to rediscover that joy…

Everyone really did have a great time. I did something like this 18 years ago, and I regret not having done more of this over the years. I want to make very special mention that Remo has been exploring rhythm as therapy for over 15 years, leading the pack with this pursuit. Remo Belli is a man of great foresight, and on behalf of the kids and myself, we extend our deepest thanks for a fantastic evening!