Improvising Life

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As I finished up my time in grade school, I had a long conversation with my band director. Bluntly, he stated that when I was in 4th grade, I was “the worst drummer this band program has ever seen.” To this day, I still take this as my greatest compliment. Let me explain.

In a typical school band program, every student plays their written, assigned part. At the fourth grade level, the basics are stressed; the parts are extremely simple. I hated not having a challenge, so I improvised. I added rhythms on the snare drum, played chords instead of notes on the xylophone, and attempted to incorporate the drum set on quiet, solemn songs like “America the Beautiful.” It sounded horrible. However, I relished musical improvisation.

Eventually, I was able to fine tune my improvisation. I slowly learned when to embellish the written part and when to respect the original version. Similarly to how long distance runners experience a “runner’s high” after running for 7-10 miles, when I successfully improvise my part, I feel a “drummer’s high.” A feeling of peace and joy runs through my body, and everything becomes seamless.

Not everything in my life revolves around music, however. I like going to games. Hanging out with friends is always...

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