Gospel Drummers & Drumming
Greetings, MD bloggers! My name is Chris DeRosa, and I’ve been thinking for some time about writing about something, for clarity (mine and yours).
Gospel or church drumming is the “hot” new gig these days. Companies like Vic Firth have really noticed and supported this vein of drummers, even to the point of having a video series dedicated to these gifted players.
I play for my church (and others at times), and have been, on and off, since I was fifteen. Does this make me a “Gospel” drummer? It says in the good book that without love we are like a noisy gong or “clanging cymbal,” and so every time I get behind the kit and play with the God-gifted talent that I have, I try to make people smile and spread a positive energy saturated in love. This isn’t always easy, because I’m human and at times distracted from my ultimate purpose. Drumming has not come easy to me, and I’ve had to work very hard to get where I am. I still believe my path and work is spirit-directed, and to honor the talent I do have, I try to spend time each day perfecting it and growing in my craft.
This concept of playing with love hit home many years ago, when I was studying at The Berklee College Of Music. Being a drummer, I wasn’t as melodically aware as I could have been, and I had a difficult time with ear training. I worked really hard at it (as with drumming), because it wasn’t natural to me. I had an amazing teacher named Herman Johnson, who not only understood this but also tried to help us students find motivation and purpose. He told a story one day in class about a dream he had and wanted to share it with us. I’ll share it with you here.
One evening while Herman was sleeping, an angel came and asked if there was something he wanted to know. Herman thought for a minute and finally said, “Could you show me the difference between heaven and hell?” The angel said, “Come with me.”
At once they both were in a fancy room with a large banquet table full of the most delicious food one could ever imagine. He watched the many guests, but noticed there was no silverware. The servants came a few moments later with the largest utensils he’d ever seen, and each guest was given a six-foot fork to use when eating their food. Many attempts were made, but the fork was so big and awkward it was impossible to bring it to their own mouths.
This went on for some time, and Herman noticed that not one person was able to maneuver a single bite. The angel then took him to another room similar in every way to the previous one. This time, though, when the large silverware was brought out and the guests scooped up a delicious portion of food, instead of trying to feed themselves, they offered the food to the person next to them, thus allowing each person to eat and be content. The angel turned to Herman and said, “This is the difference between heaven and hell.” Helping others and working together for our common good is the only way.
This image never left Herman, and from that day forward he felt his calling was to use his musical gift in the same way. His goal was to spread love and joy to all who could hear his music, and to try to make the world a better place.
I don’t know what motivates people to do the things they do, but in my case I feel good playing in a formally spiritual setting. I always try to use my drumming in a sort of prayerful dialog, regardless of where or with whom I’m playing.
Does this make me a Gospel drummer? I’m not sure, because I play many different styles, and not all of them are formally Gospel. I’m happy in my faith, and I’ve been blessed on many levels–but this has nothing to do with my drumming, “label,” or even religion, as far as I am concerned. It has to do with my faith and spiritual beliefs.
I couldn’t leave you without thanking all the good folks at Vic Firth drumsticks, Evans drumheads, Sabian cymbals, Brady snare drums, RhythmTech accessories, and Grover Pro Percussion for all their support.