“Girls can’t drum,” a good friend in third grade argued as we stepped onto the playground. The elementary school band director signed our class up for concert band before recess, and I eagerly chose percussion as my first choice.
“Can too!” I argued back, “The teacher let me.”
“But, you will be the only girl!” he pointed out. I stayed silent, unease building within me at the realization. Was I weird to want to play drums? How would my best girl friends react? They all wanted to play flute and I was the lone dissenter. Oh no! Would I lose my friends?
Shaken, I went home and showed my mother the permission slip. Her reaction changed my life.
“This is wonderful! I wanted to play drums when I was younger, but my father believed in an old set of values for how a girl should behave. I don’t ever want you to feel like that; you will play drums beautifully,” she reassured me with a hug and smile.
Learning how to play drums was the best decision of my life. For the record, I never lost friends because of it either. However, it took a lot of work. I practiced for hours a day, learned how to play rudiments, strengthened my wrists and their mobility, and worked my way up through increasing stick sizes and weights. I played elementary through high school and continue to do so today.
It wasn’t always easy (see the movie Drumline to better understand the blatant sexism present against female percussionists), but I’ve held a pair of drumsticks at least once per week these past 17 years out of passion and necessity. Drumming keeps me steady and focused.
The latest addition to my eclectic percussion collection is a Remo-made Irish bodhrán. I am learning at a careful, self-driven pace from Michelle Stewart‘s online videos. She is a talented drummer and YouTube bodhrán phenom. Her confidence and ability give me courage to move forward on a new type of drum unlike any I ever played to date.
Women, particularly little girls, may feel discouraged to break free from gender role expectations, but a little support betters their chances at attempting and sticking with traditionally male-dominated endeavors. Try to confide in someone who encourages you rather than dissuades, but don’t give up, even if you encounter opposition- persevere.
Every girl needs at least one positive activity to keep her balanced and motivated. Drums are mine. What is yours?