It’s the most wonderful time of the year: it’s Christmas time! It’s the time to be with your loved ones, sitting around the table with your family or friends and telling stories to each other. It’s the time to look back on the year gone by. We, too, love to share stories. Stories can inspire and motivate. We dream of an ever-growing drumming community and for that it’s important to keep fueling each other with our passion for the percussive arts.
For this blog we collected several stories of famous drummers from different areas of the globe. Perhaps you already follow them on social media and were always curious, what is their memory of Christmas and music? What Christmas performances did they do? Let us take you into the stories of world class teacher and drum group leader Brendan Mason (USA), insta-famous drummer Jenaro Voshol (NL), drum king Maurice Weiss (CH), connector and great communicator Alexander Nedelkos (GR) and former center snare of the Bluecoats Kyle Tsuchiya (USA).
Brendan Mason - United States of America
My First Parade - Everyone who knows me, knows that two of my favorite things in life are drumming and Christmas. Ever since I was young the two have been linked to some of my fondest memories. Whether it was getting my first pair of Reamer drum sticks in my stocking, getting a Zidjian K Dark Ride under the tree, or getting the CD Box Set of DCI Finals, drumming and Christmas hold a special place in my heart. So, where did it all start?
I joined the Col. John Chester Junior Fife and Drum Corps in October of 1990. I was 6 years old. I started to take some drum lessons with my teacher, Ed Rhodes, but I definitely was in no hurry to “figure it out”. As the leaves turned brown and eventually fell to the ground, the patriotic music I was used to hearing on Wednesday evenings turned to “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman”. Christmas was coming.
I remember the moment so vividly when the group’s director, Mr. H, told me I would be marching in the color guard at the Old Saybrook Torchlight Parade. It would be my first parade. This will be so cool, I thought to myself. Maybe I’ll get to carry a sword or even a rifle! After weeks and hours of casually walking in front of the drum corps around a dimly lit gym, I was certainly ready for the upcoming task. I will be the greatest sword carrier this corps has ever seen!
I will be the greatest sword carrier this corps has ever seen!
On the day of the parade, I mentally prepared myself for the most exciting thing that was ever to happen me. All the hard work had already been done and I was clearly a master at walking in front of the corps. This would be life-altering. I can’t say that I cared about impressing girls at that point in my maturity but it was definitely that same energy. My whole family packed the red Chevy Suburban as we made the trek down to Old Saybrook. We were probably listening to Sharon, Lois, and Bram, Rosenchontz, or the Patriots and Regimentals Fife and Drum Corps ’89 Concert. Growing up in a drum corps family is just different, which I found out MUCH later in life.
Soon we arrived and I eagerly walked across the parking lot to the trailer. No words were exchanged as a long elf hat (longer than me) was placed on my head. I was then gifted with a 3 foot tall, lighted candy cane. Apparently, this would be the weapon of choice for the day. I was in such a state of shock that I don’t recall saying anything until after the parade. How could this happen? I was going to look so cool and tough with my sword! How was I turned into an elf???
When the short parade was through, my state of shock subsided and the anger took over. I was pissed! As the story goes, I went right home and practiced. In fact, I practiced hours and hours and hours. I was never going to be handed a candy cane again. I was determined to be marching in the line by St. Patrick’s Day and nothing was going to get in my way. Just a couple of months later I had learned enough music to be in the drum line. I never looked back.
Jenaro Voshol - The Netherlands
My first Christmas performance was in December 2014, when I was about 10 years old. It was the first time I put on my (very tiny) uniform with the Jeugd Rijnmondband (Youth Marchingband from Schiedam). Even though it was just a small performance for merely family and friends, I was bloody nervous. I finally got to play with the band, which I thought was so incredibly cool. It was in a fairly small church, so everything reverberated wonderfully and sounded beautiful. This performance is something I will NEVER forget.
Jenaro is on the far right
Maurice Weiss - Switzerland
Christmas and drumming both have a special place in my heart. I got my first drum from my parents for Christmas. I began to develop a deep love for drumming at the Basler Fasnacht, which is a very special event for fifers and drummers. If you don’t know it, you should definitely look it up. It’s a very important part of the culture in my city (Basel, Switzerland). The Basler Fasnacht was really the trigger why I started drumming, but when I got my drum from my parents, my passion for drums got a good boost. I opened up my package and I freaked out that I got a real drum. I wanted to try it out directly and started drumming right away. So you understand, my first Christmas performance was in front of the Christmas tree.
Christmas and drumming both have a special place in my heart.
When I remember the feeling of drumming at that time, I was very aware and careful about the loudness of the drum. That was because my dad was always like: ‘Not too loud, Maurice! Don’t play too loud!’. So I think I didn’t play as loud as I probably could at that time. Now, times have changed: I really enjoy creating great dynamic contrast.
My first drum teacher was Walter Buechler and he made this beautiful drum for me. I was very lucky to drum on a rope drum at the age of 6, so I could become comfortable with the feel and sound of a real drum at such a young age. I would definitely recommend everyone to get a real drum, no matter if it’s a rope drum or high tension drum, just get the real thing.
Another thing that did grow my passion for drums was thanks to my grandma. I remember she always took me to parks on sunny winter days and I could drum the whole day while she was enjoying me having fun with the drum. I was so lucky I had this grandma that appreciated me being passionate. This was so stimulating for my motivation and dedication.
In conclusion, family time around Christmas does have a very special place in my heart. What’s more, I will never stop drumming, since it’s become a deep passion of mine, stimulated by my surroundings. And because I became a drummer, I got to know so many other drummers, that is truly amazing. Making music is not only about having fun with your instrument, but also about making connections, making new friends and finding love in the people around you. Enjoy your wonderful Christmas time!
Maurice as a little drummer with his own drum during Fasnacht.
Alexander Nedelkos - Greece
Note from author: I interviewed Alexander for this story, so this is my rendition of his story.
As a session drummer, Alexander has done many Christmas gigs, a lot of them commercial. A much more richer memory related to drumming he has of Christmas was two years ago where SIRD, the Society of International Rudimental Drummers organized the Stixmas event. This was a digital quiz on rudimental drumming and Christmas, with rudimental drummers from all over the world participating.
Russel Piner from England had prepared the quiz questions. Although Alexander can't recollect what the questions were or who won the quiz, the most important thing as far as he is concerned is that they had a great time together. They ZOOMed for about 2 hours with each other and had a great time. And if you think about that: it’s so special that we are now connected with such a large group of rudimental drummers from all over the world. It's so nice to spend time with people who share the same passion as yourself. That's why this is surely Alexander’s most vivid memory of Christmas.
Alexander on the top right with his friends from SIRD during the Stixmas event.
Kyle Tsuchiya - United States of America
I was a member of the University of Minnesota drumline during my 4 years of college, and every year around Christmas time we would perform at the Minneapolis Holidazzle festival - a free, annual community-building event that celebrates local food and art. It’s an outdoor event, and if there’s one thing that people know about Minnesota, it’s that it gets realllyyyyyy cold here. Not ideal drumming conditions by any means! Our hands would hurt, the drums sounded terrible, and we did not play very well by any means, but we always had a blast spreading some cheer through drumming and celebrating the community we call home!
We always had a blast spreading some cheer through drumming and celebrating the community we call home!
Left: Kyle playing during the Holidazzle festival in 2014. Right: Group photo of the entire 2015 University of Minnesota Drumline at the Holidazzle festival.