School Offers Free Jam Session
By Joshua Clark
Hampton Union, Tuesday, February 10, 2009
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Scott Yates Photo]
HAMPTON -- Anyone passing by 822 Lafayette Road on Saturday afternoon that happened to hear the muffled sounds of a wailing guitar, rolling electric bass and sporadic drumming may have thought they had stumbled upon a band fine-tuning their set list for an upcoming gig. It's hard to imagine that anyone would have guessed that seven-year-old Christian Howard was sitting behind the drum set Feb. 7.
Christian had his moment in the spotlight during a free drum class offered by Music Makers, a music instruction school. The class, which was open to people of all ages and ability, was presided over by in-house drum instructor Mark Davenport.
During the hour-long class, Davenport demonstrated a variety of drumming styles, and worked with those present to offer tips and assess their ability.
Trisha Craig, owner and director of Music Makers, said that the free session came about as a way to inspire and educate those interested in taking up the sticks.
"Several people had called inquiring about drum lessons," said Craig. "I just thought this would be a great way to get people into the school, and to see what it's like and to experience Mark.
"Then they could ask questions and get an idea what it's all about before they invest in a drum set or start lessons," she said.
Davenport told the members of the audience, who ranged from seven to 45 years of age, the drums could be used to conjure various emotions and as a means of self-expression. Utilizing a number of techniques, he brought forth the senses of happiness, confusion, and sadness.
Guitar instructor and the school's Assistant Director Robert McClung and bass instructor Tom Martin were on hand to play with Davenport, and help illustrate the importance of playing with other musicians and improvising music.
"What I enjoy about playing with other musicians is the ability to communicate on another level," said McClung. "When you're playing music, especially improvising, it's like knowing a different language."
Martin likened the experience of improvising to what happens when people are involved in a conversation.
Following his tutorial, Davenport stepped out from behind the drums and gave the members of the audience a chance to play.
The first to step forward was 15-year-old Jake Lennon of Stratham, who was in attendance with the bass player from his month-old band to see what he could learn from Davenport.
The impromptu session lasting about five minutes gave Lennon the opportunity to showcase his burgeoning skills and play with experienced musicians. Lennon said the experience was both fun and educational.
Next up was Mike Slauter, 45, a student of Mark's for since November. He described the experience as simultaneously nerve-racking and exciting.
"I almost didn't do it," said Slauter. "To follow this kid (Lennon), who's probably a third of my age and is awesome, I was a little intimidated."
Slauter said that although nerves may have caused a few missteps, overall the experience of jamming with the two seasoned veterans was the "ultimate fun."
He said Davenport had provided great instruction and made the process of learning enjoyable.
"He's a great instructor," said Slauter. "He's very patient, very supportive and very encouraging.
"He teaches me according to my ability and he doesn't try to make me go too fast," he said. "He'll recognize an area that I need to improve on and will direct me in that."
Slauter said he loved the time spend taking lessons.
"It's once a week, and I can't wait to come," he said.
The last person to try his hand at the drums was Christian Howard of Hampton Falls, who had to stand in order to reach the bass pedal. The seven-year-old tore through his set with McClung and Martin with an energy and enthusiasm that did not go unnoticed.
"I think I'm in trouble," said Christian's father, Howard. "Now I'm going to have to buy him drums."
Davenport fielded questions from the audience and finished the afternoon by giving an overview of his teaching process. The half-hour private lessons stress practicality and enjoyment over technical procedure.
"Mark did a tremendous job of teaching people who might not know anything about drums something about drums, and I think for the people who did know something about drums when he got into explaining different grooves and stuff that was beneficial to them as well," said McClung. "He was able to let the instruction reach everybody."