As I gain more and more experience working with young drummers, I notice different trends. One major factor that influences everything is weather or not there is passion for the music. It is the fuel that powers it all.
If a student has true passion for the music, it is immediately apparent in all that they do: their pursuit of the music, the passion and "go for it" attitude, having fun, not getting discouraged when things do not go their way.
Here in NJ where I work with students, the atmosphere can be very competitive. It's the most densely populated state in the country, therefore, the competition is thick and fierce. Band directors put a lot on these kids and auditioning can be really stressful, it can become so much of an "end-all be-all" experience that the music itself gets lost.
I've seen kids get crushed by not getting into a certain band at school or not getting a fair shot at a position because a band director decides to change the rules of the band so that their star player gets all the attention, leaving the less experienced players to sit out. I've also seen kids schedules be overwhelmed by a high demand of their time by band directors and what gets lost in the middle of it all? THE MUSIC!
I've seen some of the older students in college get discouraged when they haven't become a wunderkind by a certain age and they feel like they'll never stack up against the prodigy type kids out there.
So, I see all this and I think, If they could just keep the music front and center, all that other stuff would just fall away. It really would.
It's gotta be about the music.
Love of the music makes time stand still. "Practice" is not a chore. "Achievements" are really secondary to the actual music itself.
I've seen some students absolutely obsess over the achievement part of music. Then, others could care less and love music purely because... well, they LOVE music. The ones who really love music seem to be the ones who have longevity and a healthy attitude.
I've had to tell students over and over... "Music does not live under the fluorescent lights of a school classroom. It lives in you!"
For instance: a student came to me about a year ago wanting to switch from piano to drums in their school jazz/concert band, yet had never held a pair of sticks! And, they'd set some lofty goals: to be the #1 drummer in the jazz band and also to make the "regional" concert band (which consisted of a big audition on snare and a battery of percussion instruments.)
OK. I love the ambition, but I warned them that there was a lot of work to be done on their basics and they may not get into those band with only a few months to prepare.
We dug in. Hour lessons. Hard work. And we made it happen. They got into the regionals, they made the school jazz band. Yay!
Something was missing though. I kept asking questions like "What's your favorite song?" No favorite songs. "What do you love about jazz that makes you want to play it?" No real answer there either. "What's your favorite jazz song?" No answer there.
So then, the student goes to high school the next year and is totally overwhelmed by how good the drummers are. Discouragement sets in. They do not make the drum set chair in jazz band because the audition required skills that take YEARS to develop, not something you can just practice up in a few weeks.
The wind goes out of this student's sails. I spend most of a lesson trying to explain the situation. Finally I ask: "Well, are you going to quit loving music then?"
Oh! Now we get to the crux.
Of course they're not going to quit. They just got so enamored with the "achievement" that the music got lost, if, in fact, the love of the actual music was really there. Time will tell.
If you love the music, you're unstoppable. If you don't, and you're just in it for the "achievement", then you're going to hit a wall and it won't be enjoyable.
My advice to young musicians is simple: "Drink from the well of the music and you can't go wrong."