Play As Who You Are

Over the Christmas holiday in 2014 I had a very memorable experience.  I had an epiphany or maybe it was more like a personal affirmation.

For some reason in 2014 I really didn’t have too much holiday spirit if there even is such a thing.

My grandson was nine and the magic of Christmas and Santa Claus had started to dwindle for him.  This was the first Christmas where he was spending Christmas Eve with his dad’s family and not with us.

That’s really not a big deal but Christmas Eve has always been the traditional night in my family and my wife’s family for exchanging our Christmas gifts.

When I was younger it used to be a time when all the family members got together for some good food and good times.  Over the years the brothers and sisters have moved away, parents and grandparents have passed.

So that situation coupled with some family drama had the makings for a rather boring if not somewhat sad Christmas.

As is another tradition, those of us who were together went to a Christmas Eve service.  This year it was at the little church where my wife and I were married.


The little country church where we were married. Never a more handsome couple will you see.

It had been a while since I went to a church service.

The church has a new young preacher and you could tell that her point of reference differed from mine and my wife’s when it comes to a Christmas Eve service.

It was obvious she grew up in the days of the youth pastors and using modern music to try and bring the young people into the church.

My wife and I grew up in a time when church services hadn’t changed very much over the last 100 years.

There was nothing wrong with what she was trying to do.  It was just not what my wife and I were accustomed to and neither were most of the much older congregation.

She had several modern Christian rock songs playing during the service and just about everyone in the congregation had no idea about the melody or the words.

Some of the songs were very good musically.  They felt very honest.

Some of the songs reminded me of the South Park episode when Eric Cartman wanted to cash in on the Christian rock scene.  The songs just didn’t seem honest to me.

As I’m sitting there listening to one of the songs that is trying to be religious and hip, I’m picking out the drum parts.  I try to imagine myself doing the session.

I thought what if I did this session? What if I sat down and played the way I do?  I strike the drums with authority.  I play every note like I mean it.  Soft or loud I hit it with authority.

Would they stop the session and say I’m sorry you’re just too loud, too heavy, too rock and roll for us.

Then suddenly I felt different, almost light headed.  I didn’t really hear what I was listening to but these words came into my head almost as if someone was speaking them to me.

“You play how you play.  It’s who you are.”

I won’t forget it.

Five days after Christmas and I was still remembering it as if it just happened.

Was it God reaffirming to me something I already knew or just me reaffirming myself?  Or was it God pushing me to reaffirm myself?

I’ve always known I have to play as who I am.

I play hard.  I play with authority.  I am not a light swingy jazzy player.  I can try my hand at it and do well with it but it’s not me.  It has to sound like me to be the best it can be.  It has to be honest.

When I listen to any “good” drummer it has authority.  Loud or soft, fast or slow every note is struck with authority, like it was meant to be struck. There is nothing tentative only a direct, intentional hit every time, every note.

It’s who I am.

Anyway it certainly was a memorable experience in an otherwise dull Christmas 2014.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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