I’m playing this weekend for my friend Carlos Brown on his graduate conducting recital. Carlos is a young conductor with a tremendous amount of promise and boundless energy. One of the works on his program is the orchestral version of Rosephayne Powell’s “The Cry of Jeremiah”. It is a powerful work, and it is boldly orchestrated for organ, small orchestra, and percussion including a trap set player.

Carlos was wise enough to bring in a local music director from a church that does gospel music to help the drummer understand the style. So after the orchestral players were dismissed, it was just the drummer and me. Carlos set Jason to work on him. We played for a moment, and Jason listened. Carlos asked, “How do we make the drums sound less square?” Now, I could certainly tell that the drums sounded square, but I would have no idea how to assess the issue much less how to address the problem.

I have no idea how much formal musical education Jason possesses. It may be a lot, and it may be a little. However much it is, I saw a master at work. He listened for a moment, then he turned and said in drummer language, “You need to be more aggressive with your feet and play on the front side of the beat, but let your hands be lazy and play on the back side of the beat, but make your rim shots more aggressive.” He then demonstrated what he was talking about by recreating the trap set sounds with his mouth. We began again and the music had a completely different feel.

Since I come from the Jo-Michael Scheibe school of conducting that says, “What do you hear, and how are you going to fix it?” I was incredibly impressed. It’s my ideal for music educators on a number of levels.

Jason assessed the problem. He explained how to fix it. He demonstrated how to do it. He then let the student try it himself. He encouraged him when he did it right. Plus, he did it all without talking too much. It took all of 30 seconds. We should all strive for that kind of mastery as educators.