At the request of my friend Al Velasquez that asked “What was your very first job as a drummer?”… here is the answer Al.
I started studying / playing percussion since I was 12 years old. At that time, I moved to Las Vegas, NV with my family. My dad became the house band drummer of the Desert Inn Hotel in the early 70’s. One of the trombone player’s wife was a professional Dancer/Show Girl. She recommended me for a job playing percussion rhythms for a dancing class she attended.
May I explain, many professional dancers which dedicated their life to the “Art of Dance” came to Vegas and could not really show all their dancing skills by working in Las Vegas big extravaganza shows. Showgirls wore big heavy costumes, head pieces and danced topless in spectacles like Follies Bergere, Casino du Paris, etc. etc. Many wanted to dance at their top level and maintain their learned skills and could not do it in these shows.
Because of this, during the day one of the most known choreographers named Ron Lewis held these “bootcamp” dancing classes on “steroid”, where dancers that could not really “Dance” on their jobs could let it all out and REALLY dance in these classes. So, here is where I came in. Thru the trombone players wife, she recommended me (with my parents permission) to play percussion for these dance classes.
It was a very nervous experience for me, especially with all these beautiful dancers in the class. I got paid $9 an hour and played for three classes a day. I was 13 years old.
I was required to play rhythms and grooves for the Choreographer and dancers with my percussion ( congas, bongos, djembe, Shekere, etc.). Once he gave me the tempo I would break in with rhythms like Merengue, Rumba, Afro 6/8 rhythms, Samba, Arabic beats…and when I saw the reaction from the dancers was positive, like “Damn, that groove feels great” or “I LOVE that rhythm”, then that rhythm was a keeper!
I also learn how to play more than one instrument at the same time to sound fuller since I was the only player (Playing alone can be lonely).
This is where I learn the importance of tempo and movement. The classes where intense. As the dancers learned the choreography, the tempos got faster and the dancing more ferocious. Temperatures in the room got hotter and everyone started to to really sweat, including me!
So, my first job was learning about 5, 6, 7, 8, DANCE!!!… and the power of Rhythm and Dance. Even to this day, I try to make people move and dance every time I play drums in every gig I do, no matter what style of music it is.
We drummers are in the “Moving biz”. Our job is to get the listener moving physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally out of their seats!!
So… there it is, my first payed pro drumming job!
I wish you all many awesome “Rhythms and Movements” in your Life!! Remember to 5,6, 7,8 DANCE your Life away !!!