Victor Pons

Playing at Tommy Igoe's Clinic

In my current collegiate studies as a classical percussionist I have been fortunate to play for many people in gigs, master classes, lessons, and recitals. One of my most memorable performances was at a drumset clinic where my game changing moment almost never happened.

Back in high school the Vic Firth podcast of Tommy Igoe playing “The Sultan Fainted” at Montréal drumfest rattled my brain and spawned endless practice sessions for me. I remember thinking to myself, “How the heck does he nail those hits after massive solo with the track?” If that podcast were a VHS tape I would have melted the cassette from watching it to many times. I could not reason with how he pulled the hits off, it was as if Tommy had David-Blaine-like skills.

In the summer of 2011 Tommy held a master class at a local shop in Tampa, Florida. As soon as tickets went on sale I jumped on them. The clinic started with Tommy coming out to the small stage silently. He went right to his kit and threw down a massive and powerful solo that segued into his infamous “New Ground” track. After melting our faces off he stood up and introduced himself. Shortly after he put on “Groove 7 slow” from his Groove Essentials book. Tommy was clapping on two and four while rocking back and forth to the drumless track. In the middle of the phrase he cut the audio and then sparked my game changing moment with four words: Who’s gonna play it. You could hear a pin drop as the small shop with around two hundred people went silent. Tommy insisted he wasn’t joking and asked again. As if my hand was attached to a puppet arm it shot up uncontrollably without thought. Immediately I thought what the hell did I just do, I was sitting right in front of Tommy in the front row. Before I could comprehend what happened I was sitting on his kit facing a standing room only clinic with Tommy directly behind me. I was wearing his signature headphones, the same headphones from his Montreal Drumfest video that dominated my high school musical career. Before I could think the met was counting me into the track. I did everything I could to suppress my nerves and laid down a solid pocket and avoided any daring fills. I knew the Groove Essentials book very well but I never could have prepared myself for an impromptu run for Tommy himself!

In the days after the clinic I digested the reality of what happened. I realized that if I had not raised my hand like everyone else I would have missed out on a life changing event. This simple game changing event of raising my hand despite a whirlwind of nerves forever impacted how I approach playing today. If you are even remotely handed opportunity take it because you’ll never know what you might miss. You might miss your game changing moment!

PS After the clinic I finally got to ask Tommy in person about how he nails those hits in “The Sultan Fainted.” Don’t worry I won’t spoil the mystery for you all!

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