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Parents Just Don't Understand?

Updated: May 6, 2021

It's a common phrase and a very catchy tune by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince...but is it true? Not in my case and not in the case of most successful musicians out there. Explain you ask? Sure!

I am the drummer in the Newsboyz. A very successful cover band based in Austin, Texas that performs at wedding receptions, fundraisers, clubs, corporate events and other private parties throughout Texas. I have been in this band for (cough...) 23 years and have the privilege (or curse) of being 'in charge' of not only playing but administrative functions. So while these blogs reflect my experience, I can confirm the general premise I am putting forth applies to most or all of our past and present Newsboyz players.

Parents that tolerate and encourage practice at home give the burgeoning musician the best opportunity to achieve success and develop their talents to the fullest.

My parents placed me into piano lessons the summer before I began 4th grade. In my opinion, a perfect time because the brain learns quickly, even when distracted by other thoughts like riding my bike and playing with friends. I took to it pretty well and my only regret is that I didn't remain in lessons my entire life. I was allowed to stop once I got into middle school but the overall experience fueled my interest in music and led me to middle school band class where my piano teachers husband, Mr. Haag was the band director.

In my opinion, piano is the best instrument to start with because it provides the foundation you need for every other instrument...including drums. Learning to play the piano teaches you to read music, understand tempo and dynamics, and most critical to the drums gives you independence. Independence means being able to have your limbs all doing different tasks at the same time. In general on piano, the left hand plays the bass line, the right hand plays the melody and the feet work the pedals. So go the drums!

"Congratulations! Your kid has chosen to play the drums." If you've ever seen the movie Love Actually, you will remember the drum practice scenes where the 11 year old Sam (Thomas Sangster) is learning to play drums so he can win the heart of his true love Joanna. (Olivia Olsen) Cut to Liam Neeson playing Sam's dad pacing through the house with his hands covering his ears trying to drown out the noise. BUT...he was patient, tolerant and kept encouraging Sam all the way until the big scene near the end where he (spoiler alert) plays superbly and gets the girl!

My parents, Jim and Bonnie, not only lived through that initial learning to play the drums 6th grader practicing at home experience, but another 7 more years of continued playing at home and the introduction of a full drum set 2 years into that run. And surely against her will, my sister Laurie had to put up with the same noise. Big shout out to our neighbors in New Braunfels,TX as well. I'm betting the Cunningham's, Birch's and Tschatschula's all got an earful during this time! And bonus for Jim and Bonnie, after I moved out and went to college, I still showed back up at our house for weekly garage band practice.

Later as it appeared I might actually break the barrier of being paid to play the drums, my band would stay set up in the living room for weeks at a time to establish enough repertoire to pull off a full night of music. Imagine that...watching TV through your kids friends band equipment and retreating to other parts of the house 3 times a week for 3 hours while you hear revisionist versions of Pink Floyd and INXS tunes! Every parents dream!

The net result is this. Those early bands ended up being successful and those players are still my friends today. All these experiences from piano lessons, to middle school band, high school band, college band and then working cover bands have added up to quite the music career and a very enriched life filled with music, friendships and fantastic experiences.

So some parents DO UNDERSTAND! Next time you are watching live music, think about all the work that led that player to where he or she is on that stage and all the tolerant and encouraging parents (and neighbors) that let them practice and hone their craft.

Thank you Jim and Bonnie and to all the parents of my musician friends and music family. We appreciate you so much!

Jimmy Russell - May 4th, 2021

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1 Comment

Tamara Swift-Russell
Tamara Swift-Russell
May 06, 2021

This has also been my experience. I grew up playing piano. My parents got to suffer through my piano practice every day. Then I started singing at age 11. They had to invest money into instruments, microphones, etc. Lastly, without their support I could not have made it to the gigs. They drove me all over the country, sat through rehearsals and invested a lot of time and money into my music career. Thank you Ron and Rosel Swift for you patience, love and support. ~ Tamara

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