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Sometimes You Just Have to Lego

Article by Jayson Brinkworth // February 01 2012
Sometimes You Just Have to Lego

Most of the articles I write are about perseverance, motivation and other subjects that are geared towards improvement in our playing.  Well this article is a bit different as it deals with someone who actually stops playing. This is a story I have shared with many students and teachers over the years, all of which have been amused and entertained by it. But that isn’t why I am sharing this with you. I am sure you will get a laugh, but this is about a parent who wouldn’t listen and the measures taken to get their attention.

This story takes place back when I was 19 and in my second year of teaching drums. I was still very new to the process of teaching, but was learning a lot very quickly. I had about 12 students every week and just signed up my thirteenth (ironic, you will see). He was a ten year old boy who was very curious and bright. We started the first lesson talking about music he liked and why he wanted to play drums. His answer was, “I think I want to play.” Never heard this before, but, hey, I am still new to this teaching thing at this point. The first lesson passed and he was to practice stickings on a pad and read some simple rhythms.

At lesson two, he played some of the stuff but confessed that he didn’t really practice much. We continued to work on the stickings and rhythms, as well as his grip on the sticks. He sort of seemed interested in playing, but I could tell that this was going to be a challenge. Again, I was new so bring on the lessons I need to learn, right?

On lesson three, he had forgotten his books and sticks. I lent him some sticks to use and had my copy of the book . After this lesson I was really thinking that maybe lessons weren’t for him at this point in his life. I called his father and explained the situation, his reply was, “He does like it and he will come around. Let’s give it a few more lessons.” I agreed and thought maybe he was right.

At lesson four, he had his books and sticks with him, but seemed to have “forgotten” to practice again. At this lesson I decided to push a little less on drums and find out more about this student. He liked to draw and ride his bike, but just loved Lego. His eyes lit up when we talked about the stuff he had built with these blocks. He left the lesson with the same stuff to practice but was very excited as I engaged him in something he really liked.

Lesson five rolls along and still no practice, but he was very excited to tell me about what he had built this week with Lego. I decide I need to call his father again and let him know that his son is not interested in drumming and they are wasting their money. The father didn’t really like my assessment of the situation and said again, “Let’s give it a few more lessons; it is my money." I quickly realized that even though I was new, this was going to be a big learning experience for myself.

At lesson six, he had his sticks but no book. He tells me that his dad said he didn’t really need it as I have the book too. This was a bit of a shock and at that moment I realized that the dad was never going to listen to me; I was just a kid. I also realized that he was paying me (with his money), to babysit for 30 minutes instead of teach. This lesson was another write off and instead of calling, I needed to come up with a way to get the father’s attention and make him realize that he was wasting his money and my time.

For the next week I was trying to figure out how to go about getting through to this man. As I was looking for something in my parents’ basement, I stumbled across a box of Lego that I played with as a kid, and it hit me right there!

The student comes in for lesson seven with just sticks again. He sits at the drums, but I tell him that we won’t be drumming today. He looks confused, but I tell him to look in the box I had sitting in the middle of the floor. He opens it up and screams, “LEGO!” I explain that today instead of drumming, we are going to build stuff. For the next 25 minutes we build cars, houses and many other structures with the Lego. The lesson comes to an end. We clean up and he says, “What should I practice for next lesson?” I point out that he hasn’t really practiced and probably wouldn’t, but ask him to do me a favour. When his dad asks what we did at the lesson, tell him that we played with Lego. He says ok, but thinks his dad might be mad about this. I let him know that if his dad is mad, it would be at me and he should give me a call.

At the end of the teaching day, there is a message waiting for me from the father (surprise). I call him back and he freaks out about the Lego lesson that he paid for (with his money). I explain that I tried two times to tell him he was wasting his money, but he wouldn’t listen. I needed to have an action speak louder than words in this situation. He still didn’t seem to get it, but decided that they were no longer going to continue the lessons.

This was a big lesson learned in my teaching career. I think this father was the one who actually wanted to play drums but decided to live that through his son. I have had students since then that have had little or no real interest in playing, and I am straight up with the parents. I haven’t had anyone else try and force me into babysitting again though.

I have learned many valuable life and playing lessons over my teaching career and continue to still. This was just one particular event that will always stand out. The moral of this story is to always teach honestly. Also beware if your drum instructor shows up with a box of Lego to a lesson; it might mean guitar is in your near future (just kidding, guitar players).



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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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