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Mon, Jan 10, 2011
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Stay the course, Junior
by Clara Chow

Every mother's heart sinks a little when her child declares that he wants to learn the drums.

Irate neighbours pounding on your door in the middle of the night, as oblivious Junior practises his instrument. The exorbitant cost of sound-proofing your rooms. Splitting migraines caused by an incessant rhythmic din.

These visions flashed through my head when my son expressed an affinity for bongos, tom toms and cymbals.

For a couple of years now, Julian - now two months away from his fifth birthday - had been fond of walking around the house with plastic drumsticks sticking fashionably out of his shorts' pockets.

Like a perpetual production of Stomp!, he would leap about the house, coaxing beats out of the sofa, chairs, floor, his toys and even his stomach.

It got to a point where his father suggested packing him off to attend proper drum lessons. The boy seemed enthusiastic about the idea.

So, at the start of this year, I gave in to the little drummer boy's request.

The whole family - including Julian's wide-eyed little brother, Lucien, 14 months old - trooped down to the Academy of Rock music school at Goldhill Centre, which offers drum lessons for children as young as four years.

Our budding rocker was going to try out at the skins. A nice receptionist helped to settle him on a stool in front of a kid-size kit.

Alas, for all the hullabaloo he caused at home, my son was not quite ripe for stage mayhem.

First, he complained that he had no strength to step on the bass-drum pedal. The Supportive Spouse and I coaxed him to try harder.

He feebly gave it his all with his sandalled right foot. The bass drum boomed meekly.

We applauded. Encouraged by his success, Julian decided to whack the ride cymbal. The resounding crash made him drop his sticks to cover his ears.

"Too loud, too loud," he whimpered, and refused to play any more.

The receptionist asked us to come back, maybe in a year's time - when our drummer was a little more, well, developed.

I stewed a little. What could you make of a boy who begged for drum classes, and then complained the drums were too loud? If I signed him up for art classes, would he complain that the colour pencils were too... colourful?

Dragging his heels, my son explained that the sound was too overwhelming in a small studio.

I shrugged: It was a good thing we found out at the trial, before I shelled out money for a term's fees.

In a brief speech to the boys at Harrow School on Oct 29, 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said: "Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense."

I wish Julian could have been there to hear that. After all, he clearly needs the notion of perseverance drummed into him. He has to learn to find something he truly loves doing, and then stick to it.

A week later, I came home with a crystal mining kit. If he found drumming too loud, but enjoyed the insistent repetition of hammering beats, perhaps he would take to a geologist's work.

In the kit was a small block of plaster. Chip at it with the hammer and brush tools included, and you would eventually uncover an assortment of crystals.

Besides, the tap-tap of a hammer is not as loud as cymbal crashes.

"I love it," declared Julian, hugging the box.

As we started on the activity, I read the instructions to him; a note cautioned that mining might take a few hours or days, depending on the child's ability, so patience was key.

There's a half-chipped-at block of plaster on my son's desk now. I pray he will eventually uncover his gems.

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