On Saturday Night, November 22nd, Westchester drummer and music teacher JJ Clarke held her 7th annual, An Evening of Drummers at the Somers Community Center in Shenorock. A vehicle to build community and confidence, Clarke’s presence definitely seemed to bind the affair of about 100 parents and 22 drummers, but shoring up the certainty with a good gig wasn’t only for the kids.
“I get so nervous, but as soon as the first note is dropped, my ears kick in and I’m so proud,” said Clarke before the show began.
Debe Stellio of Bedford did not share the same preshow jitters for her son Vincent, who was slated to slam out AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. Having the decibels properly stacked at home could speak directly to that. “Monday through Thursday, he’s not allowed to play computer games, but as far as music and practicing, it can never be too loud, too early or too late,” said Stellio.
Before six year old Daniella Sardo took the sticks for Queen’s We Will Rock You, Clarke laid out the fundamentals for the evening. “We’re all working on listening and playing in time,” said Clarke.
The first of three Sardo’s to take the stage, Daniella definitely rocked the 70s anthem for the audience and paved the way for another classic. “Walk this Way has this challenging syncopated beat. The drummer has to listen, play in time, and relax so they can alternate between even and odd numbered portions,” said Clarke.
Luke Kovensky then made no apologies for mastering a one hit wonder that certainly appeased parents who remembered coming of age with it. “Who remembers the 80s,” Clarke introduced “Don’t You Forget About Me, the Simple Minds song from the Breakfast Club.
Not afraid to complicate matters, Drew Pohle rose to the challenge of delivering a song called Galactic by Cineramascope. “A fusion of funk, New Orleans style, Rap and Jazz, said Clarke, “It really runs the gamut.”
Of course, there’s no way to go wrong with the Beatle’s and just because they resonate so universally doesn’t mean there’s anything simplistic about their sound. “They’ll do something incredibly hard and make it sound so easily. Incorporating odd sequences of beats around a beautiful melody, Here Comes the Sun may be their greatest.”
The buildup in play, Steven Fay failed to miss a beat – even if he didn’t quite carry Ringo’s mop top.
Ben Sisko, coming without Elvis Costello’s glasses, also made due in What’s so Funny Bout Peace, Love and Understanding and credits Clarke with bringing him to the next level after 8 years of training. “I’m getting a lot more out of it than with my other teachers, because she’s a much better drummer than me,” said the 12 year old.
Sisko’s Mom gave Clarke the thumbs up too. “She works well with his personality,” said Cat Alessio. “She’s teaching him to listen and not rush.”
Anna McKee made One Direction of What Makes you Beautiful and believes girls hold their own – despite their underrepresentation in the world of drummers. “Girls are better because everybody sees them as tiny, but then they turn out to be really aggressive as drummers,” she asserted.
Even so, Vincent Stellio took the high road in his rendition of the AC/DC Classic and knew where his audience was throughout. “I don’t have to look at the sheet music, because it’s in my muscle memory,” he said. “I just know the song by heart.”
Either way, his mom was pumped. “I’m blown away,” said Debe Stellio.
She wasn’t the only one.