I was 18 years old when I decided to play drums. It was, in a way, the first decision I had ever made, and possibly the most important one to this day. Until that point I didn't have a passion or a specific goal and I hadn't accomplished anything that mattered to me. But on my 18th birthday I realized I was an adult. I could make choices and direct my life's path. More importantly I realized I must do so.
As a child I was a compulsive tapper. I would bang on anything under my fingertips. My mother and sister used to call me "thumper" and beg me to stop. My grandmother, recognizing my proclivity, bought me a snare drum at age 8. At the time, I didn't understand how annoying a child's untrained banging can be. Somehow that drum mysteriously disappeared within a week of it's arrival. I eventually forgot about that drum, but I never forgot my desire to create rhythm.
On my 18th birthday, I could have chosen any life path. I knew if I worked hard enough I could achieve what I wanted. But there was only one thing I really wanted. In a way, the drums chose me.
I spent the next several years and thousands of hours studying anything I could get my hands on. I discovered the value of practice, and I learned how to learn.
Through drumming I began to grow spiritually, learning lessons of respect, patience, and humility. I continue to be reminded of these lessons every day as I aspire to reach new heights as an artist, teacher, and community leader.
I am eternally grateful for all my teachers. Through them I've learned to speak in the most beautiful language I know.
I'm grateful for the talented musicians and dancers I've been able to play with over the years. I'm grateful for the fans who support live music. Without community, without loved ones, music is meaningless to me.
I'm grateful to live in America in the 21st century, where people of any ethnicity can be respected for their skill in an art or trade that isn't theirs "by heritage". We still have a long way to go, but here and now, girls of any color can dance ballet or play the violin, a black man can become President, and a white kid from San Francisco can earn his living playing African drums.
I've always loved the participatory aspect of African-based drum and dance. This art wasn't designed for spectators, the whole community gets involved. Sure it's fun to watch, but if you clap, drum, sing, or dance you will feel the magic and it just might change your life.
I've always hoped to build bigger and stronger communities around this communal experience of joyful expression. In an age where a tiny line of text on a phone takes the place of a face-to-face connection, or a 3-D movie replaces an actual life experience, we need more significant human contact. Our children should grow up in a world where we drum, dance, and create joy together--so that we feel our interconnectedness and we celebrate our interdependence.