Monday, May 15, 2006

Billy Ward Clinic - London

I had the huge honour of seeing Billy Ward do a drum clinic on Saturday.

For those who don't know Billy, he is one of the top drummers and drum educators in the world today. As a player he is most well known for being the drummer for Joan Osborne, the American singer / songwriter. He has also played for countless well known artists from Robbie Robertson to Yoko Ono. On the drummers' side of things he has rapidly become one of the most enthusiastic and informative educators, with a way of imparting his knowledge that is quite infectious.

Sorry if that all sounds a bit gushing but he really is that good.

So, on Saturday evening, my 12 year old daughter, herself a budding drummer, and myself headed off to sunny Croydon to see the great man do a clinic. We got to the London Drum Company, the shop involved, with lots of time to spare so we bought some chips and spent some quality Father/daughter time eating chips in the car and listening to the FA Cup Final. When that finished we wandered around the drum shop looking at things that only a drummer would appreciate. Bass pedals, cymbal stands, snare drums and kits. You know the kind of thing.

After a while we went into the venue, a church hall 2 doors away from the shop, and found some seats. I was pleasantly surprised as we got the 2 chairs directly in front of the drum kit. A dangerous gamble, as our enjoyment could have been very high or very low, depending on how loud he played. Luckily for us the volume was at a comfortable level throughout the evening. The venue was small and must have only had about 70 or 80 seats so everyone was able to see and hear very well.

The programme started with a short solo by a young guy called James Birt. I don't know much about him other than the fact that he won the "Young drummer of the year" competition run by in the UK this year. He is only about 15 or 16 and he is a much better player already than I will ever be! He played for about 15 minutes, some solo stuff and to a few songs, all with extreme assurance, coolness and musicality, then handed over to the main attraction.

The way in which Billy presented the clinic was to take many of the concepts covered in his DVD and elaborate on them and demonstrate them. Most of the audience were familiar with the DVD, it is chock full of useful concepts and ideas, and it was good to see them explained in person. He is the sort of geezer who says stuff that is totally obvious but, when he says it, you sit there thinking "Why did I never think of that?"

He played several songs in a variety of styles and talked about his lateral approach to many aspects of drumming. It is always a joy to witness any musician get as much pleasure from playing their instrument as he obviously does. There were smiles, there were grimaces and there was laughter. He took time to answer questions, demonstrate concepts and pose for photographs.

I learnt a lot but the biggest thing I got from it was a good boost. Seeing someone with that much ability and enthusiasm for their craft has one of two effects on people. It either makes them want to give up or it makes them want to try harder and get better.

I want to try harder, get better and have lots of fun whilst doing it.

Thanks Mr Ward!

Oh, and thank you for being so nice to my daughter, you are her new hero.

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