Sunday, July 26, 2009

Drum Jam Workshop

SunDownMuse gigs were becoming fewer and far between the past weeks/months. Given that gigging was one of my few escapes in my life, I was becoming increasingly restless. But life at times surprises you with little reprieves here and there, that end becoming some of the most unforgettable memories that you will keep for the rest of your life.

A good friend of mind, Dave Esteban, sent me a message through Facebook, with a very interesting invitation. Dave used to be the percussionist of one of my favorite local bands called Sound. He was one of my personal inspirations to start percussions.

The message was an invitation to facilitate an upcoming drumming workshop that he and his wife are organizing. I was late in responding. But when I actually did text him. Dave said that all facilitator slots have been filled. However, Dave texted me later that day because one of their facilitators backed out. I was weirdly hesitant to accept his invitation given that there was just way too much to do at work these days. But I eventually agreed.

The workshop group was called Drum Jam Workshop. Dave filled me in on the details and I showed up at the orientation/practice for the workshop at the school his mom is running, Esteban School. I left early from work just to join the orientation. I called my "suki-cab driver" to give me a ride to the school. I was so glad that I brought my 14 inch Pearl fiberglass djembe. It's been neglected for so long that I imagine it would grow some feet and runaway from home already. I was at the school early before everyone else, obviously showing my over-eagerness to participate. I ended up hanging out with Dave in his office for a while. Dave was pleasently surprised when I told him I was a VP of Operations in my company. He said I was a perfect fit for the workshop group. But I didn't really fully understand what he meant by that.

When the rest of the facilitators arrived. I was in awe to see them. Dave did warn me beforehand, that the other facilitators are awesome percussionists the likes of Inky, Mang Jose, Pepoy, and Jango. But it didn't really hit me until I was so star-struck to see them face to face. There were other non-percussionist facilitators as well that specialized more on facilitating workshops. But the drumming method is so simple that most, if not all, people can learn it quickly.

Within a few minutes of Dave and Donna orienting us on the process flow of the workshop, you can tell that they put a good group of facilitators together. I was both scared and excited to be part of this group. I could see the positive attitude of some and the raw skill of others. And I'm glad that I held my own during the orientation.

I took a vacation leave from work to attend the workshop the next day. So I showed up at the workshop venue, Shangrila EDSA hotel, earlier than everybody else again (talk about eager-beaver huh?). I wasn't early. Everybody else was late. LOL!

The drumming workshop was actually the culminating team building activity for executives of Globe Telecom. They were having a strategy conference and we were supposed to cap it off with a bang. Donna informed us that the people we will be teaching are comprised of the CEO and 2 levels below him. I've been so used talking to clients, and being part of the executive team in my company, to even be remotely nervous about speaking well to the Globe bigwigs. I was in a haze the whole time before the actual workshop.

The participants actually had no idea that they were going to participate in a drumming workshop. So we had to lurk around to prepare for the workshop. Somehow Inky managed to get his "buhat boys" to secretly bring in all the large Sono drums he utilizes for his Samba Marching Band called Brigada. Mang Jose brought all sorts of shakers from his collections. Jango brought one of his custom-made djembe drums. Dave brought practically all the djembe-like drums in his possession; from djembes, to doumbeks, to ashikos. Of course, the only thing I had to show for was my 14 inch djembe, which happened to be the largest djembe amongst all of us facilitors. At least, may pagmamayabang ako kahit papano. Dinaan sa laki. LOL!

Donna was able to pull off getting JB Music to sponsor the workshop by lending us a whole slew of Remo percussion drums and other gear. All of us percussionists felt like kids in a candy store. Kudos to JB Music for finally running with Remo products in the Philippines.

Once the Globe bigwigs took their break. We rushed in the seminar/conference room to place 120 souvenir drums under their chairs. I failed to mention that there were over 100 top management personnel in that seminar. And Globe paid to purchase each and every one of them a souvenir drum. So that they have something to drum with when we teach them during the workshop.

After running around frantically making last minute preparations. We snuck in to the back of the room where the kitchen and cleaning staff were. Dave and Donna's plan was to play this video of some guys having a drum jam in a park, and then a Yuppie/Corporate looking guy came along with his own drum and started jamming with them. As that video was about to finish, we came in playing the same rhythm as what was on the video. That to say the least was a very strong entrance. During that jam, Dave got some of us to adlib/solo one by one. Dave nodded to me to solo as well. Although, my chops were not as awesome as Pepoy's or Jango's, I did okay.

Donna introduced each facilitator one by one, in order to show the strength of the group that have members who were bonafide percussionists or veteran workshop facilitators. To my surprise, this is the only time I finally understood what Dave meant about me being a perfect fit for the group. Donna introduced me to everyone as the "perfect combination of corporate and musician". By the time Donna mentioned that I was the VP of Operations for mobiusgames, the crowd was surprised and applauded. That was quite a feel good moment, mind you.

David and Donna then told everyone to reach under their chairs. You could see everybody's eyes so surprised that they actually have a drum of their own to play with during the workshop

After coursing through the drumming method with everyone, we broke out into groups where each facilitator has to assist in coming up with something creative based on the drumming method that was taught. One group was assigned to just all shakers. Thanks for Mang Jose and JB Music, there were more than enough shakers to go around for that group. Another group was assigned to Inky, where they got to try out the large Sono drums. The rest of the groups were assigned to the remaining facilitators.

Dave emphasized that we shouldn't really be leading these djembe groups. Rather, they themselves are supposed to figure out how to creatively interweave all the rhythms taught to them earlier, and we were there to just assist. So in my group, I told them exactly this:

"I'm sure you all know how this feels like since you are upper management of Globe. I spend all week telling everybody what to do. So for today, I would like you guys to tell ME what to do. How creative this groups gets is all about how much you guys put in it."

The nods from everybody signified that they agreed with me. And to my surprise, they took the initiative to organize themselves. I gave suggestions on how best to go about it. But they came up with the dynamics and flow of the interweaving rhythms we agreed upon.

Then it came to how the group was supposed to end the rhythm collage. The 5th rhtyhm that was taught was actually an ending rhythm. However, the group had a hard time getting the timing right all together as one group. So I suggested to them a "daya" way of ending it. At the end of the rhythm collage, they would all stop. I would then solo for a second or two, then drum really fast. Once I did that, the rest of the group drums really fast along with me, and then we all stop at the same time with an "umph!". It's kind of cheating since we skipped the 5th rhythm completely. But hey, we were supposed to be creative, and I felt I needed to inject that since we didn't have much time left. We practiced it all the way to the ending twice, and the group felt pretty good about it.

We then reconvened and all the groups performed their rhythm collages one by one. I was proud of my group because it was a true collaboration. And our ending was one of the more dramatic endings compared to the other groups.

The last activity in the workshop was a jam by all of us facilitators, and all of the 100+ Globe bigwigs. Inky's skill really showed because he was a conductor of sorts with how he set-up all those people to play the flow he concocted in his head. The room was reveberating with all the drums being struck at the same time. And the ending made everybody cheer with some weirdo happiness/glee.

Ernest Cu, the CEO of Globe, spoke a few words to wrap up their 2 day strategy seminar. After which, myself and the other facilitators jammed on the side of the room as all of the bigwigs started to leave. That jam was fun because I was holding my own with these awesome percussionists.

A few of the Globe bigwigs, gave me their business cards out of the blue, saying they want to do business with my company. I suppose I did make an impression on them. And all of us facilators were greeted with big smiles and thanks.

As I helped everyone pack up all the gear, from Mang Jose's shakers, Inky's Sono drums, to JB Music's gear that we borrowed. I was happy that these percussionists and other facilitators were treating me like equals.

Pepoy and Dave surprisingly were asking me how I do this certain lick that I like doing when I solo. I'm not much of a solo-ist. But it was a good feeling to be asked how I do a certain thing when it's obvious that they are eons better than me.

Donna asked me if I could be part of the regular rotation for the next Drum Jam Workshop. I was really flattered to even be invited back. And apparently Donna was equally over-joyed to hear me say yes.

Dave and Donna offered to give me a ride back home. On the way, we all got hungry and decided to grab a very sumptuous bite to eat at New Bombay near my place. It's the best Indian food around. And apparently, Dave and Donna kept going to that place for a long time before since they knew the owners.

I arrived home contentedly full, yet dead-tired. I literally plopped on my bed as soon as I got home. But I ended that day with a big smile on my face; ear to ear. That day, it was good to be alive.

Check out Drum Jam Workshop's Multiply at


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