Thursday, August 22, 2013

It Appears To My Eye That My Wife And I Own The Greatest Ten-Year-Old Drummer In The World

Well, we don't "own" him exactly. We feed him most every day, and he sleeps in our house. He's sorta like the cat. But you never really own a cat, or a ten-year-old drummer.

My two sons, otherwise known as Unorganized Hancock, performed at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. It's a lovely place, hard by a scenic lake in the mountains in Madison, Maine. It's a summer retreat for artists of many kinds. They're from all over the world, but they're mostly living in New York City. They were young to old farts like us, but they're all young adults. They were the most energetic, pleasant, and interesting crowd of people I've seen in a decade or two. There were two most excellent videographers there, and look at how wonderful the kids look when they're not stuck with their idiot father pointing a flip camera at them. The soundtrack of the video is just the ambient mic on one of the cameras, but it sounds pretty good. The Heir edited it himself from the wonderful raw material.

It was the boys' third job in a week. When I say that the Spare Heir is the best ten-year-old drummer in the world, that's what I'm talking about. Scour YouTube for "ten-year-old drummers." There's lots of them. There's a numbing sameness to all the videos. Some father that never had a cup of coffee in the real music business, with a very elaborate and expensive drum set and recording equipment that's never left the house, has been living vicariously through the poor kids, and forces them to play along with the worst possible music selections from their wasted youth. The kids aren't really playing music, and mostly look bored while they do what they've been taught robotically. It's data entry, not music. They're just playing Guitar Hero on dad's instruments instead of the TV.

Our children are homeschooled. I'm ostensibly their music teacher. People assume that means I have unlimited time and resources, and the children are made to practice music every waking hour of their day while I beat their knuckles for missing a note. How else could they get so competent, so fast? It's the exact opposite of that. The public school has, compared to us, unlimited money and equipment and time to teach music. They just don't do it. They squander all they don't plain waste. The children that attend public school can't play music after they're finished with their education. They often have been demoralized to the point they'll never try on their own, after, either.

I have an approach to teaching the kids music. It works. It doesn't work because we have unlimited time and money. My children are poorer than every other kid in town, although they don't know that. I work all the time -- all the time, I'm not joking -- trying to extricate us from our straitened circumstances. So the kids get a little encouragement and very little practical advice in a short blast from me, and that's about it. But we let them. WE LET THEM. To let to do. Laissez faire. The bontemps will rouler if you'll just let kids do things.

My two boys practiced together for two years in a room with no heat or electricity, with the plaster falling on their heads in chunks the whole time. They do not play along with recordings to attempt to impress people on YouTube. They play music, intended to entertain an audience, with other humans. It's not their fault there are no other little humans that can keep up with them, so they have to do it together, alone. And if you put them in front of almost any audience, including the one in the video, who are about as sophisticated as you can find in this world, they get over -- big.

As I said, we own the greatest ten-year-old drummer in the world. Prove me wrong; show me a better one. Ours can, and has, performed for two hours straight, three days in a week, for money, for strangers. He can play so competently --nothing flashy, mind you, I don't allow flashy, a drummer has a job to do -- that you completely overlook the fact that his seventeen year old brother can sing and play with real muscle for hours at a time with only a ten-year-old drummer to help him.

(Nota Bene: If you're one of the legion of my readers that have contributed money and/or offered encouragement to my boys over the last year or so, look what you've accomplished with your generosity. They boys have enough equipment to play out, and even have a seat in the back of my truck, because of you. My wife and I are immensely grateful to everyone that reads, watches, comments, and contributes to our PayPal fund for the boy's musical stuff. We love you all)

[Update: Dr. Dave has absolutely pegged the generosity meter at our PayPal button this morning. Many thanks!]
[Up-Update: Kathleen M. in the Nutmeg State is unfailingly generous and pleasant and we love her for it. Many thanks!]
[Upper-Date: Many thanks to Drake from N.D. for his generous support!]
[Most-Uppestdate: Many thanks to Julie from FL for her generous support and friendship!]
[Yet More Up-To-Date: Loads of thanks to Norm S. in beautiful San Jose for his generous support!]


drdave said...

I have watched the heir and the spare with interest since I first came across your blog and am amazed at their talent and the fact that they seem to just keep getting better (and apparently, more popular, too). I don't know how you do it, but keep it up, it seems to be working well. BTW, I cannot think of a single negative to home schooling, either.

leelu said...

Loved, posted, linked!

Sam L. said...

I suspect that if you were really proud of the boys you'd make a few deprecating remarks about them and take all the blame for their weak performance yourself.

But I am an old cynic.

vanderleun said...

Do you think I haven't noticed ... do you think
I wasn't aware of the drift? Oh ... you poor
unfortunate scuff, they've driven you into
books by their cruel, unnatural treatment,
exploiting your good nature.

(not too sure)
Oh ... I dunno.

And that lot's never happier than when they're
jeering at you ... and where would they be
without the steady support of your drum beat,
I'd like to know.

Yeah ... that's right.

And what's it all come to in the end?

Yeah ... what's in it for me?

A book!

Yeah ... a bloomin' book!

He throws the book down.

When you could be out there betraying a rich
American widow or sipping palm wine in Tahiti
before you're too old like me. A fine neat and
trim lad the class of you should be helping
himself to life's goodies before the sands run
out. Being an old age pensioner's a terrible
drag on a man and every second you waste is
bringing you nearer the Friday queue at the
Post Office.

Kathleen M said...

Thanks for post! Proud of "our" kids!

leelu said...


I'm thinking the lad may be a bit young for "...betraying a rich American widow or sipping palm wine in Tahiti ...". But, I could be wrong.

I do heartily agree with the sentiment: "A fine neat and
trim lad the class of you should be helping himself to life's goodies before the sands run out."

Actually, the last one goes for both of 'em.

Sip, I think, has that covered...

leelu said...


julie said...

Wonderful - and the videographers did a fantastic job. We already knew the boys looked great, but this is really polished. Well done, well done.

And What Kathleen Said™

T.K. Tortch said...

I can't show you one!!

My two boys practiced together for two years in a room with no heat or electricity, with the plaster falling on their heads in chunks the whole time.

Downpayment on dues payments. They keep it up, eventually they'll be playing musical establishments in worse shape than that. Possibly for humans, though it may be hard to tell. So they'll do fine.

Mr. Vanderleun, when I was a kid I had a buddy who wanted to be Ringo. Even got hold of a Ludwig set of appropriate vintage. He was a terrible drummer and he was already fifteen.

Anonymous said...

That was really great

I was a player once, and young


Dinah in Missouri said...

Wonderful! Not only do you have the best 10-year-old drummer In The World, he's the cutest one also. The Heir ain't bad, either. It's great to have followed them from their start to entertaining a whole room of enthusiastic and appreciative people. Please pass along my virtual applause to them. The Heir's work on the professional video was super and I appreciated the sound, too. Good job!