In the beginning I was the only one in the room.
From my view I could see my husband with his two older brothers sitting outside near a rounded-rock campfire overlooking a calm lake. There was a Minnesota chill in the morning air, so they were drinking their morning coffee and talking like brothers that have loved and endured each other for well more than half a century. We were in town for my nephew’s wedding and staying at Steve’s middle brother’s new 3,000-square-foot log cabin.
The music was loud and vibrating the walls when I slid behind the Birchwood DW Drum Workshop set. I noticed when seated the artist would have a perfect view out the double sliding glass doors of the campfire to the right side and the lake in full view.
I looked around. There were at least five pairs of drum sticks of various wood colors and sizes to choose from.
Because I was feeling artistically-shy, I initially chose the telescopic drum brushes commonly used to play jazz. I figured since Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” was blasting, my rhythmic errors would be less noticeable with my series of snaps and sweeping brushes. I used the brushes for my warm-up sets and gained confidence, like a timid six-year-old artist opening up a 64-count pack of crayons and meticulously choosing the first teal-blue crayon and coloring a small corner of a blank white piece of paper, before seizing the razzmatazz red crayon and nimbly overlaying the entire living room wall.
I felt like the exuberant children’s book character Junie B. Jones when she says “Wowie wow wow!” But Steve, Jeff and Mich may have heard what could more accurately be titled “Dennis the Menace finds Mr. Wilson’s Prized Drum Set.”
The choices were exhilarating: a six-piece set, seven cymbals, a double bass pedal, conga drums …
After a few sets, although the brothers never glanced my way, the room began to fill with an audience. I could tell they weren’t sure about my drumming abilities, but they smiled and nodded in approval and curiosity.
After I played three sets, I invited them to join me — and the full-on concert began. The once-audience of my daughters Alex and Phoebe and my sister-in-law Sharon Mangas instantly became my percussionist partners. We became a unified band joining forces to play Rolling Stones “Street Fighting Man,” all taking turns playing the drum set and congas and choosing music and dancing.
We cheered after every song. Sharon drummed a killer conga. Phoebe expertly started every song with hitting the sticks in the air like an “X” and starting the vocals. Alex’s kick drum action was on fleek. And I don’t like to brag, but I can drag those brushes with intricate flourishes and complex time signatures. We played with the hearts of Charlie Watts (The Rolling Stones), Neil Peart (Rush), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Ringo Starr and Buddy Rich.
We cheered because when you called dibs on the drums and begin drumming first thing on a Saturday morning, you know it’s going to be a good day. We even grew confident enough to volunteer our talents to play at my nephew Josiah and Sarah’s wedding the following day.
Yet, even after our percussion band gave a 10-song performance of a lifetime, the Mangas brothers never once glanced back into the house where they could clearly see the ongoing concert. But as you know, true artists — whether writers, percussionists, dancers, vocalist or gardeners — must make their art, whether they have a humongous or nonexistent audience.