On Saturday Night, November 7th, JJ Clarke held her 11th annual Evening of Drummers at the Shenorock Clubhouse. Background music and vocals blaring in range from Led Zeppelin, Greenday, and Blink-182, her students filled in the beat and rattled the beams to the pride of parents, friends and the spirit of the original artists who first shook our souls.
Rich Celik was clearly in step as he couldn’t contain his dancing feet while watching his granddaughter Natalee Ricca resurrect John Bonham of Led Zeppelin in The Ocean. Still, it wasn’t Natalee’s pounding that really got Grandpa’s heart beating. “You can tell when you’re looking at a good drummer because they are completely relaxed, and that’s exactly how she looks,” said Celik.
For her part, Natalee attributed the ease to an advantage girl drummers have over the boys. “Attitude,” said it in one word.
Referring to a happier disposition behind the drums, the sentiment couldn’t be missed as Kate Andres took the silverware for her turn. “I love the feel and everything about music and drumming,” said Andres after chopping out a piece of Still into You by Paramore.
Emma Shapera, on the hand, cooked her own creation before Feeling This by Blink-182 got its rendition. “A drum solo puts a lot of pressure on the drummer, because they have to rev the audience up. So you can’t rehearse it. You just have feel it,” she said.
But JJ’s drummers get their fill of improvisation in every lesson. Mentioning “the fill” the drummer has to hit before most of the performances, Clarke left it to one of her 11 year olds to clue the vernacular. “Besides the main beat, it’s that little something extra that the drummer adds,” said Vincent Stellio, who hammered out Honky Tonk Woman by the Rolling Stones.
His mom kept it in the family – even if keeping up with her son wasn’t quite in the cards. “The better drummers go first,” said Deb Stellio who was two slots behind Vincent in the playbill.
However deferring was easy. “The self-confidence drumming gives him is really an important part of him progressing,” said the Bedford resident.
Even so, she wasn’t shy about her place in the lineup in 2016. “Next year, I’m going to smoke him,” she joked.
Seamus Carey was another matter. “Last year, Seamus rushed to the show after interviewing with Berkley, and it turns out, now he goes to Berkley,” said Clarke.
A year of Berkley and Carey’s advice was simple. “It doesn’t matter where you go, how you start or how you finish – you just have to love it,” he said.
Nonetheless, his Dad Jim gave JJ her due. “She comes right up underneath a kid’s limit, and pushes them up until they hit the next level,” said Jim Carey.
At the same time, Clarke still puts it on her students, and that makes all the difference for Ben Sisko’s mom. “The audience may miss your mistakes. But you know when you screw up, and you have to take ownership,” said Cat Allesio of Clarke’s credo. “That makes him focus.”
By the looks of the sawdust falling from the ceiling, Ben obviously wasn’t the only one.