My Gift

by JD

When I was a kid, things were pretty tough.  My dad lived far away, so it was difficult to visit him.  My mom was in an abusive marriage with a man that I didn’t particularly like, and my grandfather (my idol) left me early on.

All this caused me to seek attention or act out, sometimes in negative ways.  Of course this made me a target for kids in school.  Now I’m not claiming victim, but I definitely had my run-ins with classmates that had no true understanding of what I was really going through at home.  Visits to the principals office, schoolyard scuffles, and depression was soon to follow.

By the time I hit middle school, I was in a full blown depressive state.  I seemed to be overrun with emotions and had no way to really vent.  Sometimes I’d just cry, and I really had no idea what triggered it.  By freshman year, I was suicidal. I had no idea that my saving grace was right under my nose the whole time, and it was a gift already given to me.  The gift of music.

In the midst of all my struggles, I had always liked the drums, because it was something my grandfather began to show me before he passed on.  I didn’t learn much after that, but I did join the band in middle school, never really taking it seriously. Freshman year of high school, in my depressed state, I began to spend more time by myself.  I would just sit on my front porch with my practice bells and snare drum.  I would practice for hours on end.  I don’t really know why I started doing that, but it just made me feel better.

When I started doing all that individual practice, my skills started to improve, and I realized that I could really manipulate the sounds of these instruments.  I learned how to make my drum reflect how I felt inside.  Sadness, anger, hope; I started to feel like I could play it all through my drum.  And THAT was a defining moment in my life.  I fell in love with band after that.

My grandfather (far left) and his soon-to-be community drum corps. 

Later, I found myself in college on a music scholarship, marched in a drum corps, and started teaching across the US.  Here I am now, as a grown up; a professional percussionist and percussion director with national titles and Hollywood credits.  I feel like I owe a ton of what I have to my grandfather.  He was only around for a short period, and he didn’t get to show me much, but it really made a world of difference.  I am no longer that sad, depressed, and misunderstood kid.  I now stand on my own 2 feet.  It’s because of my grandfather and it’s because of music.

Myself, with my high school level indoor percussion group. 

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