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Thursday, April 14, 2011 03:20 pm

The beat goes on

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Drumfest gets rolling on Sunday, April 17, from noon to 6 p.m. at the Firefighters Postal Club near Lake Springfield.

I’ll spare you all the drummer jokes that led off last year’s column introducing Drumfest, except for one, because we must have our fun. It’s just natural in the band world to pick on the guy in the group who beats on an instrument to make music.

“How can you tell if there is a drummer at your door? The knocking speeds up and he never knows when to come in.”

Laugh all you want, but drummers are essential to making the music that we are accustomed to enjoying happen. Even as the extended use of computerized machines seems bent on eliminating human-made rhythm from recorded music, drummers could very well be considered the original musicians. Surely you can see (and hear) the poor sap told to beat out a certain rhythm on a hollow log sufficing as the most modern of communication devices. While tapping out the standard beat something happens creatively and the whole world goes wild. Our drummer gets fired as communicator and hired as entertainer. Here begins the process of purposely altering sound to make something other than noise and the next thing you know we have Beethoven, the Beatles and Britney on our hands and conscience.

May 16, 2010, marked the inaugural of Drumfest, our area celebration of drumming conceived and organized by longtime local drummer Dan Shaughnessy. This Sunday, April 17, Drumfest keeps the beat, on time and in the pocket, with a new location, a different charity, more participants and the same attitude of giving the timekeepers their due for a day.

“We were at Frankie’s 49er last year and outgrew the place already,” says Shaughnessy. “The turnout was unbelievable and we wanted to make sure we had room to handle the crowd so we got the Firefighters-Postal Club out on the lake. Weather permitting we can do some music outside too.”

Once again the event begins with two hours of free lessons and clinics for kids of all ages, taught with care and consideration by a variety of local drummers and percussionists. New this year is a celebrity player hosting an official clinic. Ben Sesar, resident drummer for country superstar Brad Paisley, comes to town through a sponsorship by Ludwig Drums. Doug Antonacci, owner of Daddy-O’s Music Shack on Stevenson Drive, carries the Ludwig brand locally and helped arrange the deal. Coincidentally, this is Sesar’s first corporate clinic and it all just fell into place where he was available right as Drumfest happened, according to a thrilled Antonacci, who has sponsored other industry-related drumming clinics in the past.

All proceeds from last year’s event went to St. Jude’s charities, but Shaughnessy found another group for 2011’s collection that really struck a chord, or hit a beat, we could say.

“I’m heartfelt about Operation Comfort Warrior. It’s a real class act and a great charity,” he says with obvious emotion. “I’ve got a real soft spot for our troops; they keep our world safe. I’ve heard some heart-wrenching stories from soldiers and we want to give back what we can. Every penny we take in goes straight to them.”

The event is free and open to the public with donations encouraged as well as participation in the silent auction “of nice things you’d want to have.” After the clinics, six acts perform a wide variety of music styles while accompanying an assortment of some of the best drummers around, with Sesar’s demonstration tucked in there, too.

“We’ll bring in different players every 20 minutes in trying to accommodate everybody. It’s a lot of work but all worth it,” says Shaughnessy. “I’m just thankful we live in a country and community where we have such support for art and talent.”

Drum roll please!

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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