Dave Sanderson

Taking Lessons from My Father

My game changing moment was a game changer for both my father and me. It was almost two years in the making, but it was well worth the wait.

It started when I was in fifth grade. One night my father came home from work with two wedge shaped wood contraptions and two pairs of drumsticks. He announced that he was going to teach me to play drums. After dinner that night he took me to the basement for my first lesson. The sticks were imprinted with the characters 2S. Damn they were heavy! We would later jokingly refer to them as “telephone poles.”

After what seemed like hours (it was probably more like 30 to 45 minutes) my arms ached. I never wanted to hear the click of a metronome again, but I soon learned that the practice sessions were now a fact of life. I was going to have to learn to live with them 5 to 6 nights a week.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Dad was just as exhausted as I was. He’d not had a pair of drumsticks in his hands for 10 years, but he was committed to getting his chops back so he could perform in amateur musicals and community ensembles. As time went on he discovered that performance anxiety would make those events an excruciating chore, but the nightly lessons continued.

Our game changer came at a 6th grade school recital. As I took my place to play “The Downfall of Paris”, I noticed that a member of the audience stood up at the back of the room, placed his hand on his chin, his attention riveted on me. At the end of the recital the stranger approached me, shook my hand and said, “Hi. I’m Mr. Bradley. I teach band at the junior and senior high schools. You play very well. I am looking forward to having you in my band.”

Wow! In that moment I understood the importance of the hours spent in the woodshed. A respected musician had just welcomed me into a new world. I was no longer a kid with a practice pad. I was a musician.

My dad’s world also changed that moment. His first and at the time only student had caught the attention and approval of a professional music educator. From that day on his focus began to shift from performing to teaching. For years to come, after putting in a full day at work, he would load his metronome, practice pad, and well worn copy of J. Burns Moore’s book “The Art of Rudimental Drumming” into his Volkswagen Beetle and drive from house to house teaching the fundamentals to beginning drum students.

To this day I continue to benefit from his legacy performing with our church band, “God’s In the House”, and I am certain that scores of former students smile and think of Mr. Sanderson every time they hear a paradiddle.

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