Wow, what an honor to connect with the MD family and share what playing drums is allowing us to do to save lives.
I’ve lived in the St. Louis area my entire life (go Cardinals!), and I’ve played drums since I was a kid. I received a Bachelor of Performance in Percussion from Southeast Missouri State University, and I’ve had the opportunity to play with the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra, Sammy Davis, Jr, and the 5th Dimension. I own a chain of three local music stores that cater to and focus on music education primarily through lessons and instrument rentals.
I’ve always enjoyed performing and the opportunities it has presented, and a simple conversation with a friend of mine spurred an idea that has become the Awaken Project. My friend and business partner Joe Richardson, who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the mid ’80s and caught greats like Roger Clemens, lost his son, BJ, to a heroin addiction a little over two years ago. His son was only twenty years old, and in his pain, Joe decided he wanted to make a difference in the lives of other students and their families to prevent them from going through what he had to endure. The result of our conversation was to combine a music performance with a compelling message to capture students’ attention and warn them against the devastating affects of heroin and other illegal drugs.
AP is a two-part presentation that starts off with my drumset, lights, and a live drum performance to songs the students recognize. They often dance and sing along, which is always a lot of fun to see. After a brief testimony of sharing with the students what choosing music has done for me, Joe steps onto the stage and shares his tragic story and educates the students on what to look for in terms of the signs of drug use. His goal is to empower students, teachers, and parents to speak up if they see these signs and do whatever they need to do to get help for their loved ones.
By the end of the show, students realize they can make better choices in life and experience a different outcome than BJ and the many students who have lost their lives to drug addictions. They realize that the friends they choose in life determine the direction and quality of life they will have.
These principles are true for all of us, and our hope is that everyone who experiences our show and hears our message will commit to making positive choices in their lives, and maybe music will be one of those choices like it was for me.