It’s Thursday, June 4, and the big day has arrived. I have been promoting this drum clinic with the one and only Kenny Aronoff for the past five months, and Kenny and I have been communicating for the last year. My music school, Music In The House, and other sponsors (St John’s Music, SaskMusic, Zildjian, Tama, Shure, Remo, Meinl, and Vic Firth) have all come together to make this happen.
Kenny is to fly in on a commercial flight at 4:30 PM, the clinic is at 7:30, and he will leave tomorrow morning at 10 AM to get back to Calgary and resume the John Fogerty tour. This is his only day off on the tour, so I am extremely lucky to have him do this.
I’m getting ready to leave the house around noon to get his drums re-skinned and make sure everything is in order before he arrives. My cell phone rings at 11:15 AM, and it’s Kenny. He says, “Jayson, is there any way we could cancel the flights and the hotel”? I am confused and ask why. He responds, “There’s a friend of mine here in Calgary who is an executive producer on a project I’m doing, and he wants to get a private jet and bring me to the clinic and back.” I’m taken aback a bit, but after further discussion it seems like a good idea.
So I cancel the flights, for which I have backup flights booked as well, and the hotel. After all this, I leave and resume my duty in getting things ready with my buddy Ross. Kenny keeps me posted all day on the status, and they leave Calgary at 4. My head is still not processing all of this, but we go along setting up and getting everything ready.
I head to the airport to pick up Kenny and whoever else came along at around 5:15. The jet has just landed and I greet Kenny and two other gentlemen, Mark (who rented the plane) and his friend Parker. Kenny can’t believe this has happened either, and he’s also feeling very rock-star-like–this is a first for him as well.
We head to the venue and Kenny begins to set up and soundcheck. It all goes great with help from our soundman, JJ. In the meantime I’m hanging out with Mark and Parker, who are great guys, and I’m taking care of administrating the event. It’s a treat to see Kenny work in soundcheck and setup. What a pro–this is why everyone hires this guy!
The doors open at 7:15 and the people pile in, some having waited for over an hour. Kenny and I hang out backstage, running through the format of the event and making sure everything is in place. After everybody has made it in, we finally start around 8 PM with my introduction. Kenny hits the stage and is in nonstop playing and educating mode for two solid hours. He is a machine. He plays every note like it’s his last and is as excited about drumming as a beginner. The show wraps up at 10 with his blazing version of “Straight No Chaser,” followed by a killer solo just to make sure everybody leaves totally mesmerized.
We give away a ton of prizes, and Kenny signs autographs for about forty-five minutes. The clinic is amazing and the 200-plus in attendance are extremely motivated and excited. Bu here is where the story takes a twist and gets better.
I hang out with Mark and Parker for the evening and we really hit it off. They’re not musicians, but they love music. They’ve never seen or heard of a clinic before, so they’re blown away. After the clinic, Mark says to me, “Why don’t you come back to Calgary with us tonight on the jet and hang out for the day tomorrow. We’ll go and see Kenny play with John Fogerty tomorrow night, and you can come home on Saturday.” My first reaction is “Absolutely!” but then I realize my responsibilities here, so I say I would love to but I don’t think I can make it. Well, after getting a talking to by my amazing wife, Laura, I answer yes.
We leave the venue, I pick up a bag of clothes and stuff at home, and we’re off. We board the jet and I sit across from Kenny Aronoff for the one-hour flight, chatting about music and such. We arrive in Calgary, get into Mark’s car, and drive to the hotel. Kenny retires for the evening, but Mark, Parker, and I hang out for a couple of hours.
The next day I wake up and think, What is happening here? How did I get this opportunity of a lifetime? This day involves hanging out with Mark and chatting about music, business, and life. We’re supposed to meet Kenny for lunch, but he gets tied up earlier than expected. That night we pick up our tickets and backstage passes to the John Fogerty show, and man, do they rock! Kenny is on fire, and John Fogerty has the energy of a fifteen-year-old.
We make our way backstage after the show to hang out with the band for an hour before they leave for the next show. Again, I am standing here thinking, How did this happen? This is my second night in a row hanging out with Kenny Aronoff. We also hang out with two skiers from the Canadian Olympic team, Jan Hudec and Paul Stutz, more great people.
Mark returns me to my hotel and I just sit on my bed thinking, WHAT JUST HAPPENED? I get up early, my flight leaves at 11 AM, I get home at 12, and I start rehearsals at Music In The House at 1.
I’m not sure what the lesson is in all of this, but I am more inspired than ever to play my @#$ off all the time and to be the best musician/human being that I can, every minute of every day.
Thank you, Kenny, Mark, Parker, and Laura.
Jayson Brinkworth is a drummer/percussionist/vocalist who grew up and still makes his home on the Canadian Prairies in Regina, Saskatchewan. He has been playing, writing, teaching, and recording music for more than twenty years and is a co-owner of Music In The House. For more on Jayson, visit www.jaysonbrinkworth.com.