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Practicing Perserverance

Article by Jayson Brinkworth // May 02 2008
Practicing Perseverance

per•se•vere: to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement. 

We have all heard the expression “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I can remember hearing this so often as a child while trying to tie my shoes, ride my first bike, do school work, and many other new tasks in life. As children and grown adults, we are all faced with new obstacles daily, but why did we keep trying to tie our shoes or ride that bike?

In my career as a musician, there are too many new obstacles to list, and they pop up everyday as I have said, whether it is students having difficulty with a drumming exercise or concept, problems in my own playing (don’t even get me started on this one...way too many to list), gear issues, booking gigs or sessions that overlap, etc.. There are many problems/tasks in our lives that force us to take one of two actions. We can take the easy way out and quit, or we can buckle down and persevere through the problem. If we take option 2, we will be better people and musicians as a result of our hard work.   

One of my pet peeves in teaching is when the students use the word “hard“—"This is so hard to play”, “I can’t do this, it is impossible”, or “Can we do something easier?” Aaaaaahhhh!

I don’t let them use the word hard; we use the word different. If we say something is hard, we put up a roadblock for ourselves and make it even tougher to move ahead. If we view the exercise as being different and truly embrace this, we are more likely to succeed and persevere. 

Anything new we ever learn is just different, and after we work on it for a while, it is no longer different. Think about the first 1/8 note beat you ever learned, could you lay it down instantly? Maybe, but if not, can you lay it down now? I am guessing so, and you probably don’t even think about it while you are playing (just like tying our shoes). 


When I started to play drums back in 1983, I was very determined to learn all that I could. I was also like many other musicians and had very little patience, I wanted to be Jeff Porcaro, and wanted it to be yesterday. This attitude has both a good side and a bad side. The bad side was that with a little more patience, certain exercises and concepts would have been easier and less frustrating to understand. The good side was because of my stubbornness, I didn’t give up. I had a passionate hunger for information and wanted to be the best that I could be. I couldn’t let myself be defeated by these patterns and exercises from a book.  

I remember learning songs by Rush, Toto, Yes and many other bands that required a lot of time and effort. These songs seemed very HARD at the time, and there were times I thought about just quitting and moving on.  I chose to dig in and work through these tough sections in the music. The odd time signatures, phrases with 1/32 note bursts, 1/16 note triplets, and many others almost got the best of me. 

One such example of this was my determination to play Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills." This wasn’t so much a problem with the beat and patterns, as it was the tempo of the song. The fast 1/16 notes on the hi-hats were taking their toll on me. I could get about 1 minute in and my hands would lockup—damn you, Clive Burr! As I tried harder and harder, I realized that I needed to slow down and examine my hand technique. I was squeezing the stick way too hard, like I was choking a snake. I was also holding my breath as I tried to keep up with this song. Our muscles don’t work well under these conditions.

My solution was to practice with a loose grip, make sure I was breathing and only play at a comfortable tempo.  I would also try playing to the song only every other day, and not eight times every day. Well, in a matter of two weeks, I was up to two minutes into the song (Yes!). I was really learning a lesson in how slowing down and being patient can actually help me in my pursuit to play faster, what a concept. Needless to say, I kept working this way and could finally play to the whole song, and learned some very important lessons about perseverance through this journey. 


In my years as a drum instructor I have too many examples of perseverance to share. My most recent “event” has taught me a very important lesson about my own ability to persevere. 

I will get to the story, but here is a bit of background. I have been doing clinics and workshops in this area for a while now, and this community needs more drum events. I remember being a young drummer and being able to attend several drum clinics that came through our city : David Garibaldi, Peter Erskine, Tom Brechtlein, Terry Bozzio and many others would be here to share their knowledge with us. But as of late (the last 10 years or so), we haven’t had a lot of these events here, and I think this needs to change. In 2006 I started a drum day which we called “Drummin’ Sunday“ and it involved three Saskatchewan drummers doing clinics on various topics. 

Well for 2007, I wanted to have a "name" artist be our clinician. My thinking was why get a mediocre clinician? Why not go right for the top? So on September 10, 2007, I sent an email to one of the best Billy Ward. I wanted to find out details on his clinic information, and to see of he would travel here from New York for a clinic. He was very interested, and we came up with a plan to have the clinic on Sunday December 16, 2007, here in Regina. Well with all the planning and excitement, here is a list of things that happened leading up to our “Drummin’ Sunday" event finally happening on April 20, 2008. 

  • Emails to Billy Ward and supporting companies to get this event in line (I believe 400 emails was my last count!).
  • December 16 – event cancelled as bad weather stalled Billy in Minneapolis. 
  • More emails to everyone to plan a new event on Sunday March 9, 2008. (This one totaled 300 or so emails)
  • March 7 – event cancelled due to bad weather again. Billy didn’t even have to leave his house this time. 
  • More emails to everyone  to plan a new event on Sunday April 20, 2008.  (This one only entailed about 100 emails). 
  • April 20 – The clinic and master class happen with only a 14 minute delay on the incoming flight. 

The event was amazing, and students and musicians in attendance had a great time. I could have quit after the first 2 attempts, but I would have been living in the “What If’s”, “What if I had of followed through ?”. I don’t like living in the “What If’s” and neither should you.


I am very excited that this is my thirteenth article for The Black Page magazine. I am honored to be part of this wonderful project that Sean Mitchell has put together, and I believe that it will be huge. 

Every month I search through ideas and snippets that I have for articles, or I will just come up with a new concept all together. Either way, some of these (not many though) almost write themselves, while others take time, a lot of effort and some serious perseverance. Even if I start an article and realize that it isn’t going anywhere at this time, I do try and finish it and don’t just quit. If I quit, it is just an unfinished piece. But if I battle through, another idea may arise in this creative journey. 


Nothing ever just "fell into place" for all of the great musicians of our time. Each player had to overcome obstacles (some greater than others) to achieve his/her goals. Look at Rick Allen from Def Leppard as an example. Here is a drummer who loses his left arm and his band stands by his side until he is ready to get back on the drums. The hours of practice, patience and perseverance that must have went into his recovery would be unfathomable for most of us.   

We all have to overcome obstacles everyday, and will forever. To be successful at anything, we have to know how we deal with these obstacles personally, and adapt accordingly. Don’t ever be afraid to take a chance and try new things. Don’t get discouraged when things aren’t going right. Work through it the best way you can, and you will be rewarded for your hard work.



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About the Author
Jayson  Brinkworth

Jayson Brinkworth is an accomplished drummer, percussionist, vocalist, educator and writer based out of Canada. He is co-owner of the Saskatchewan music school Music In The House, as well as the founder of both the Regina Drum Festival and The Stickman Drum Experience.

Jayson proudly endorses Yamaha drums, Sabian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, Evans heads, Impact cases, Kickport, Flix, Future Sonics and Mountain Rhythm. Visit Jayson online at www.jaysonbrinkworth.com.

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