It is week 9 of the current school term. One week to go. The sun is shining, it’s a nice day out, and there is nothing especially wrong in my little corner of the world. Just my usual litany of envy, first-world complaints, and generic disgruntlement.
With that in mind, I’ve decided that today I will torture my students, one by one, by making them learn beats and then playing along to the worst recorded examples of them. First up…
Period 1: Too-Much-Basketball Kid
Despite the fact that he spends too much time on the basketball court and doesn’t really practice all that much, I rather like this student. A nice kid with good manners who usually pays his tuition fees on time is A-OK in my books. He’s got a decent enough dose of musical ability to kinda be OK at anything he tries his hand at, so overall we have enjoyable lessons. But I can’t let my emotions get in the way of my objective. I give him a two-fer, starting off with “Word Up”, by Cameo.
That’s 4:39 of pain.
Just to make sure he never forgets who is in charge, I make him play “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. I have never heard this song in its entirety nor seen the music clip, but sometimes we all have to make sacrifices to inflict a little pain.
Neither his feet nor his hands can keep up, but I make him keep trying and failing just for the sake of it.
Period 2: Cool Afro Kid
We usually work on snare drum technique or mallets or something else that will sound like nonsense to your ears, but since most of our equipment is currently being used at another school we were forced to work on congas today. Other than “Oye Como Va”, there wasn’t anything especially tortuous about this lesson. I let my guard down. Am I getting soft?
Here’s a clip of of the late, great Tito Puente acting like a total goofball in his later years. Of course, he was making gazillions of dollars at this point of his career, so I’d probably be smiling like that too. Bless him.
We finished our lesson by checking out the insane solos on “Ti Mon Bo”. The bongo solo is my favourite (that’s the first one), but the conga solo (second), and Tito’s beautiful phrasing in the final solo are all something special.
I need to recalibrate and find my focus, but there’s no time before….
Period 3: Sucky-Know-It-All-In-Year-7 Kid
Like most know-it-alls, this kid know doesn’t know his ass from his elbow, which means that he’s playing random definitely not-in-time shit while a metronome blasts away to seemingly no avail. I spend today’s lesson banging out the correct rhythms on a cowbell while he keeps shaking his head and acting like he doesn’t know how to FUCKING. COUNT. TO. 4.
Pure torture. For me. This is all going downhill. I take some consolation in knowing that he’s not enjoying himself and is just starting to realize how much he really doesn’t know. Convinced I see the beginnings of tears welling in his eyes before the bell goes, I give myself a bonus point.
RECESS: I go to the teacher’s lounge and just hate everyone for no good reason. They are all very nice. I get a cup of tea. I scurry back to my room. Here’s “Teenager Of The Year” by Lo-Tel, also for no good reason.
Period 4: The Metal Kid
Alright, I know I’ve got to turn this ship around, but he comes out firing and catches me off guard with “The Beast and the Harlot” by Avenge Sevenfold.
At no point in my life have I ever felt my existence was hollow due to a lack of metal. Do you have any idea what’s it’s like trying to explain a shitty drum transcription of a shitty song to a kid who has shitty reading skills? It sucks, but only gets worse because I’m dumb enough to put on the video so not only do I have to hear this shite I now get visual proof that this goth-pop is made by wankers who should have stopped shopping at Hot topic a long, long time ago. I double-down by listening to the lyrics and that’s when I really start to lose it. Right before the bell goes I cue up this tasty 4-on-the-floor number, but he is out the door before he feels anything.
I’m getting discouraged but enjoy the song anyway.
Period 5: Why-Are-You-Asking-Me-Questions-I-Can’t-Possibly-Know-The-Answer-To Kid
I got my beating stick ready, just in case….
But alas, it was not to be. We instead worked on drum line exercises, which although a noble cause left me feeling defeated, alone, & confused. What is happening to me?
Here’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels” by Tom Petty. I use this one for the really hopeless kids. It’s slow, it’s repetitive, it grooves, and I don’t want to blow my brains out. Kind of missing my objective, but what can I do by this point?
LUNCH: I eat an apple and make another cup of tea. Hiding in my room.
Period 6: Really-Nice-Young-Man-Who-I’ve-Perhaps-Overestimated-His-Musical-Abilities Kid
Doesn’t show up. He’s gone for the day. The final opportunity to make one last stand and redeem my day has evaporated in the afternoon sun. I tried. I failed. It happens.
Here’s “Teenage FBI by Guided By Voices, because this is about as much of the teenage years as I can handle right now.
Holler back if it’s been a while. It gets lonely out here.