My story doesn’t start in the summer of 1982 when I first laid my hands on a pair of drumsticks. My story really starts in the fall of 2009 after crashing my motorcycle on a winding mountain road in southern Utah. I badly injured my right ankle, my bass drum side, when my motorcycle slid into a concrete barrier. After six months of recovery I returned to playing drums, but my ankle just wasn’t the same. I didn’t have the same dexterity or speed and it seemed like none of the exercises that I was doing were helping me achieve those goals.
In April 2011 I gave up playing drums. Aside from the occasional drum lessons, I did not play at any church or with any band. In November of 2011 I started practicing bass guitar and in January 2012 I started playing bass guitar at my church. I have always tinkered around with bass or guitar, so it wasn’t difficult for me to pick up. Sometime around March 2012, one of our associate pastors gave a message on Matthew 15:29-39. What struck me the most about that message was verse 34 when Jesus says, “How many loaves do you have?” and then proceeds to perform a miracle. I felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me, “Give me what you have and I will create a miracle with it.” For the previous two weeks I had been feeling like I would like to venture back into the waters of worship drumming, but wasn’t quite sure. So, when I heard this message it really struck a chord in me and I started to think hard about what my future might hold.
Two days after this message was given, I saw a video for a conference that was to be held in Minneapolis called “The Drum Set and The Kingdom”. It was promoted by Owl City drummer Steven Goold and sponsored by Risen Drums (Keith Anderson). The conference was one day and designed just for worship drummers. Not the same kind of conference or trade show type thing that is designed for selling stuff or entertainment, but something that is designed just for instructing worship drummers. I heard the Holy Spirit telling me, “You need to go to this.” When I got home after work that day I watched the video again and in the background my wife was listening. She said, “That sounds like something you would like to do.” And again I heard the Holy Spirit saying to me,”You’re going.”
So, that day I started to plan out how I was going to pay for this. The fee for the conference was only $50. But, I live in Arizona and the conference was in Minnesota. That meant that I needed at least $600 to cover the cost of a hotel and round-trip airfare. If that seems like a lot for a one-day conference, it is. But, I was listening to the Lord’s instruction. I know he said go, so I’m going. So, I sold one of my bass guitars and also my Omar Hakeem signature series snare drum. I saved a bit of allowance cash to make up the rest and I was off to MN.
I sat in the front row for every session, I took notes, I took pictures, and I paid attention. For the steep cost of $600, I was not going to miss one piece of information. Throughout the day the sponsor and promoter had been raffling off various items. The final item was a handmade, walnut stave snare drum made by Risen Drums. When they called my number my hands started shaking so badly I could not pick up the raffle ticket from off of my iPad. What a blessing! I’m fairly certain that this drum retails for between $600-$700.
When I talked to my wife that night I was very excited to have won the snare drum but, as I was recalling the events of the day and telling her about the things that had been talked about, I realize that I too had good ideas about being a worship drummer. The more that I processed what I did know, I realized that there were so many aspects of being a worship drummer, that no one could cover all that information in a one-day conference. I began to realize that I had ideas on how to organize notes on chord charts that are designed for guitar players. Experience concerning the interpersonal aspects of being a member of a worship ministry. Ideas about the ways that we can improvise or emulate electronic sounds with acoustic instruments and about what to do when you forget a piece of equipment or what to do when a piece of equipment breaks. At that moment I realized that I have something to offer the worship drumming community. “The Drum Set and The Kingdom” conference was my catalyst. I’m so glad I was there for the inaugural event. I sincerely hope that this conference continues year after year.
I have played in nearly every imaginable scenario that worship drummer can be involved. I have played with nearly every type of equipment that a worship drummer can be expected to play on. I have played with every skill level of musician. I have experienced nearly every interpersonal scenario, barring fistfights, that can be experienced within a worship ministry. To paraphrase Nate Robinson, a Risen Drums endorser and drummer for hip-hop artist LaCrae, teaching others what you have learned is good stewardship of the gift and experience God has given you. Things aren’t always fun or smooth in the arena of worship drumming. So, I hope that in the future the information and experience that I post on this blog will be helpful to the worship drumming community and will help drummers achieve excellence, further the work of Christ, and lead his people to the foot of his throne to worship and adore him.
Peace and Grace, John