He’s 14 years old, skinny with unkempt hair. Usually he wears basketball shorts and a blank white Tee shirt and a pair of glasses that remind you of Harry Potter. He has a quick smile and an easy laugh. Is almost always in a good mood and his rare bad moods seem to be more confusion than anything, like it’s a new sensation that caught him off guard.
He plays drums for me at church. He’s a novice drummer. He’s eager, humble, and works hard. He’s always willing to receive instruction, which is good, because I’ll get as specific as I can with him.
All of our weekends playing worship music and leading worship jumble together in my mind, but I seem to remember a Sunday when we had a pretty long rehearsal. I think there were a couple new songs and I was getting pretty specific with drum parts. He was having trouble with a couple of the parts and there was probably some other musicians in the band that needed to play the songs a couple more times.
Service time came and we started to play. I think it was the second song, and an upbeat song at that. Justin was nailing a majority of the parts. Not bad for a kid. Then it happened.
Justin went for a drum fill to lead us into the chorus. Drummers love drum fills. They always try to sneak in an impressive fill. I think that’s what Justin was going for. It didn’t quite work out.
Justin let the drum fill go on for an extra beat and when we started the chorus, he was hitting the snare on the one and three instead of the two and four. If you don’t know what that means, it’s like playing a beat in the exact opposite way you would expect to hear it. It’s like mustard on ice cream. It’s awful.
During an instrumental I look back at this Harry Potter look-a-like who was less than a wizard on the drums. His eyes were open as far as they could. He mouthed to me what’s going on? I smiled, shrugged my shoulders and laughed. This happens with young beginners. Besides the song was almost over. The misery would soon pass.
We laughed about it after the service. Well, I did at least. Justin’s laugh may have been to cover that teenaged mortification only adolescents feel. I remember thinking afterwards: all that work in rehearsal and it didn’t translate to the actual service.
That was a decade ago. Justin isn’t 14 years old. He’s 25. Some things have stayed the same. He’s quick to smile and the first to laugh. His hair is a little unkempt. Still has glasses but he’s too old to remind you of Harry Potter.
We go to different churches now. That has changed. But he still loves playing the drums in the context of worship. I lead worship for a ministry called Celebrate Recovery at my church and he joins me for that. It makes up for not worshiping together on Sundays.
Another thing has changed. He’s not a novice drummer anymore. This was the rehearsal this last Thursday. Justin and the band show up. We run through every song once and we adjust our monitor mixes. I don’t tell Justin to do anything. He’s listened to the songs. He showed up to the rehearsal knowing every beat and every transition. He’s literally playing the exact drum parts which is good because unlike ten years ago, now we’re playing with a click and enhancement tracks.
The entire rehearsal was 30 minutes. I think it might be a record for this group.
It’s time to start the service. Justin executes everything perfectly. Every groove, every fill, every transition. All of it flawless. Well, at least any flaw was too minuscule for me to notice.
We get done with the worship. It was great. We all felt it. The undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit filled that room for a meaningful time of worshiping our Savior.
I’m writing this section the day after the event and I can’t help but observe that the length of the rehearsal had very little to do with how well the band actually played.
PS. Part 2 will be published next week, but until then, click here for 11 tips for running rehearsals because it’s helped an lot of people and rumor has it Voldemort wants to erase it from the internet.