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Author: Richard Symister

My Drumming Evolution – From Playing Drums to Fixing Drummers

My Drumming Evolution – From Playing Drums to Fixing Drummers

Here’s a little bit about my drumming history, my torrid “drum” love affair and how I could never truly leave.
I met her at her about age 14. She was a  pearl blue, four-piece, Gretsch drum set. The high-hat cymbals were craptacular, like two aluminum trash can lids clamoring together. The ride cymbal was cracked, buzzing  along its fissure when struck.The bass pedal was rickety with poor tension. I fell immediately in love.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Rudiments, rudiments, rudiments! 
Drum lessons. Countless hours cloistered in my make-shift basement studio, practicing. High school orchestra. Jazz band. Marching band. Living room jam session. Drumming duels and rivalries. Rehearsals in a church hall (great acoustics!) for stardom that never came. Best times ever!
In 1986, I was off to college.  I promised I’d visit her often and keep her in my thoughts, but time and distance (and a new girlfriend) slowly pulled us apart. Returning home for summer vacation was weird. I’d stop by and visit now and then, hesitantly picking up my sticks to play her, but things weren’t the same. I had lost something…and she knew it. The next summer, I sadly took her apart and covered her up with blankets. 
Let’s jump ahead 10 years…
In 2001, my girlfriend and I moved to Brooklyn, New York, a city which will forever be infused with eclectic music culture, artistic creativity and relevance, and a very impulsive muse.
In Fort Greene, Brooklyn, I opened and ran  a successful physical therapy/performance therapy studio —- MovEvolution —- treating musicians, martial artists, dancers, and multi-sport athletes…folks that move for a living and live to move.
We got married and I was blessed that my wife (a professional singer, dancer, and soon-to-be-wife) shared my zeal for travel. 
Hello Brazil! This was my very first experience with Capoeira and all the instruments involved in the roda (berimbau, pandeiro, atabaque, agogô, and reco-reco). Of course I had to buy a berimbau. My little finger would never be the same.
Hello Belize and the Garifuna punta drummers!  My wife’s people are from Belize and, other than the freaky resemblance to many of its Dangriga residents. I was totally engaged in their drum making skills, from hollowing out a log to stretching the goat hide for the drum head.

From log to drum, Belize-style

Hello Cuba! Son. Salsa. The Buena Vista Social Club. It’s here I realized that I could never really appreciate the dance of  Rumba until I learned to play the  Guanguanco rhythm. The two are married, dancer and drummer. 
We had the most blessed opportunity to study with  Obini Bata, Cuba’s first all-female bata orchestra —- two days in row! Ever play the bata drums? Without a doubt, it is one of the most aggressive and complex percussion instruments I ever played.  My hands were extremely angry with me for days. 
Oh yes … more Capoeira.
Hello Egypt!  We renewed our vows and I discovered the riq—- or what I called the “mini drum set”. What a rhythmic weapon! I could not believe so many sounds could be produced by one small instrument. Another highlight was traveling by boat towards the  Nubian villages of Aswan, on the Westbank of the river Nile. I had my berimbau with me and was happy to hypnotize the small group of Nubians with us as they did the same, with their melodic, harmonized singing and drumming, carried by the acoustics of the Nile river. 

Creating music on the Nile with the beautiful Nubians

Hello Ghana! Again, my wife’s people. Once in the famous Accra’s Makola Marketplace, I heard lots of djembes, donjos and there were  drummers’ circles everywhere. 

Richard and wife (right), post Ghanaian drummers’ circle 

Drumming Love
Now, approaching my mid-50s, I play for fun, house parties, dance classes and African spiritual ceremonies.
It also brings me great joy, as a physical and performance therapist, to work on all percussionists who suffer from pain or injury because of their art. Read more about the MovEvolution Drumming Therapy program HERE.
I will always have a deep, intrinsic affection for percussion instruments, entranced by the beats, rhythms, vibrations and all other sorts of sound syncopation.  
And I will always remember my first love.

Heal. Move. Drum. Evolve. 
Richard Symister, MSPT, Owner, MovEvolution
Read more about the MovEvolution Drumming Therapy program HERE.