I was very good at drumming. Studied, took it seriously, practiced long and hard. In 1985 I auditioned for and was accepted into the University of Nebraska drumline, as a snare, no less. This was a crowning achievement for me as a young man. My chops were outstanding – I felt like I could do anything I wanted to do as a drummer.
Then one morning during practice in Memorial stadium, I walked off the field, set my snare down, and told the drumline leader “I quit”. And that’s exactly what I did, right then and there. I walked away from everything – all my classes, the marching band, the private lessons. Everything.
Because of my peculiar behavior, I ended up joining the United States Marine Corps. Good move, and I left drums behind for good. Spent eight years as a Marine, still fiercely proud of it to this day. I also became an alcoholic, and later a drug-addict, as well. Spent many more years systematically destroying myself and my life. I struggled to get sober for years, lost almost everything in the process, and was dying of alcoholism in my mid-30’s. I finally got serious about sobriety at the age of 37, and have been clean and sober since February 24th, 2005.
Rebuilding my life was daunting, and drumming was far from my mind. I spent the first five years of sobriety just getting healthy, out of debt, and reintegrated back into society as a fully-functioning adult.
Then one day, I had an epiphany: I’m supposed to go back to drumming. So, I did. Very slowly, and with an excruciating amount of rust, I began to rebuild my chops. One of the possessions I had managed to hang onto during the ugly years was my stick bag full of custom Reamer rudimentary drumsticks. I started with those. Building, remembering, moving forward but with a totally different mindset than when I walked away all those years ago.
I also decided to build the set of my dreams, from the ground up, piece by piece. So, I did that, too. Took me 13 months, plus another round of improvements ending only just recently, but I now have the kit of my dreams that is not only a work of art, but has the sound that I’ve “seen” in my head for years.
I’m a very blessed and fortunate man. I’ve been given my life back through the grace of God. I have a wife, a step-daughter, my own little boy, and I’m slowly discovering what kind of drummer I want to be again. I haven’t been this excited about any pursuit in many, many years. I’m a long way from that day at Memorial stadium, and the game has definitely changed for me.
In celebration of Vic Firth Company's 50th anniversary, we've spent an entire year celebrating Game-Changing Moments in drumming -- including yours! To everyone who shared a story with us this year, thank you! Drumming is a shared experience and we are all brothers and sisters! Your stories have inspired us to continue making the best sticks possible and to continue changing the game for drummers everywhere.
We received thousands of amazing stories this year. Although it was difficult to choose only one story, we're happy to announce that Joe Russomano is our grand prize winner in the Game-Changing Moments contest!Read Joe's Story