What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians?
A drummer.

How many drummers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
None. They have machines to do that now.

What’s the difference between a drummer and a drum machine?
You only have to punch the information into a drum machine once.

How can you tell if there is a drummer at your door?
The knocking speeds up or, worse yet, he never knows when to come in.

As you can see by this short selection of jokes, drummers take a beating and are always on the short end of the stick. Granted there are plenty of slams about other musicians, but people who pound on things and call it music receive no mercy from those playing the melodic instruments.

Of course it’s all in good fun and we could say, like most derogatory and poor taste jokes, the attempt at humor comes from a sense of envy and a degree of jealousy. Think about it, fellow musicians: most drummers I know can play other instruments at least a little bit, but how many guys who sling a guitar, tickle the keys or slap a bass can keep a steady beat for four hours? Beats me.

The fact remains, drummers usually have the most equipment to haul around (watch a band tear down sometime), require a special practice area (turn those drums down, Junior!) and carry the weight of keeping a band together and on time.

With all this in mind, allow me to introduce the inaugural Drumfest, an event created to pay tribute to the regulators of rhythm and acknowledge the importance of our timekeepers by giving those beaters and shakers, tappers and thumpers a day of recognition and reward for years of making sure the beat goes on. Local longtime drummer Dan Shaughnessy envisioned Drumfest to honor percussionists as integral members of the music world and as a way for the guy in the back of the band to give back to the community at a daylong festival through a combination of teaching and performing.

“Drumfest should be both inspirational and educational to anyone interested in percussion as a career or a hobby or just likes the drums,” Shaughnessy explained. “Most of the drummers are teachers at local music stores or in popular bands and a couple even have endorsements from large percussion manufacturers.”

The hoopla begins at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 16, at Frankie’s 49er with lessons by Ron Engel on hand drums and continues with Mark Janis at 11:25 and John Vickers at 11:45 on the trap set or what we know as the familiar drum kit. Mike Newberry and John Sluzalis conduct seminars from 12:10 to 1 p.m. on trap set performance, then the band music begins about 1 p.m. Other drummers scheduled to smack the skins include Tom Summerlin, Mark Cole, Greg Fundis, Reggie Britton, Nat Radwine, Larry Harness, Jose Santiago and Shaughnessy. The list continues to expand as more drummers hear about the opportunity to play with fellow percussionists and join in.

“When I started asking drummers if they would be interested in something like this the response was amazing,” reported Shaughnessy. “The best part is it’s all free to the public as a gift from area drummers with donations accepted for St. Jude’s Hospital.”

Musicians other than drummers playing on various incidental instruments such as guitars, basses and keyboards include members of Suns of Circumstance, Cats on Holiday, the Station, Screamin’ Vatos, 56 Hope Road, Triple Lindy, Hip Bone Sam and others. Now that we have Guitar Town and Drumfest, can other musicians be far behind with celebrations of each and every instrument? The word on the streets and in the gutter says BassBurg is on the books coming in June. Know how to get a bass player off your porch? Pay him for the pizza.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com

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