I started playing the drums around 9 or 10 years old. The reason I got into playing the drums is pretty funny thinking back on it. At that time, my cousin was in High School. She was dating a guy from our church who played the drums. He drove a dark green 4Runner. I thought all of that was pretty rad. I thought, ‘you know what…I want to play the drums too!’ I started banging around on pots and pans and turning everything in sight into a drum set. When I got my first pair of drumsticks, I would ride in the backseat of my mom’s car on the way to school, jamming out on her headrest in front of me. Eventually, she’d had enough and decided it was time for me to take my talents elsewhere…like a real drum set. She and my dad arranged for me to go to my church early on Wednesday afternoons to take some lessons with my cousin’s boyfriend. I was stoked. Sometimes my parents would take me, other times, Mr. Dark Green 4Runner himself would pick me up from school. We’d drive, windows down and music blaring, all the way to the church parking lot. We were consistent in lessons for a while. I learned my basic beats, the parts of the drums, and how to play along to the songs we listened to on our commutes. I was hooked.
Eventually our lessons tapered off. But my love for the drums never did. The church had some spare drums and hardware laying around in a storage closet, and my parents arranged for me to be able to take them home to practice on them. This drum set came to be known as the ‘Franken-kit.” Spooky. I kept this hodge-podge set in working order for the better part of the next decade; playing, practicing, and performing in my parents basement. At some point in my journey, I stopped being the guy who played drums, and started being a drummer. It was not only what I did, but who I was. All throughout middle and early high school, this was my identity.
At the start of my junior year, it was time for our church praise and worship band to start back up again. I assumed like all the previous years, I’d have a spot on stage as the drummer. It’s who I was remember?! Not so fast bucko. The senior, who was on his last lap around the sun as a high school student, was going to get the nod this time. He was going to be the backbone of the band. He was going to be the human metronome on the little 3 foot youth group stage…not me. WHAT?! The audacity! I was clearly better…right? It should be me up there!! Wrong. Didn’t matter. It was my turn to take a seat. Join the youth group for once. See what it was all about…out there…in the pews. I relented and took my seat. A few weeks into this routine and I could barely stand it. I couldn’t tell you a single word from the sermon, or even what songs were played. But I could tell you every note the drummer played. Every drum fill, cymbal crash and kick pattern. I was jaded. It should have been me up there. I was frustrated. I was angry. I was…immature.
I stopped showing up so regularly. I went through a bit of a phase of self discovery. One bad breakup, some soul searching, “Kumbaya”, and encouragement from my friends later and I had finally realized, I was WAY too wrapped up in this whole drummer thing. It took time but I began to settle into a more healthy relationship with the drums. And about that time, an opportunity presented itself. “Hey Park, I know you wanted to play drums this year in the band. I’m sorry that didn’t work out. We could use a bass player. Are you interested in learning?” Sign. Me. Up.
I saw this as an opportunity to re-engage with the people and place I loved most. And I took it. I didn’t even own a bass. I didn’t have the slightest idea how to play the instrument or how I’d learn. But I committed. I began searching YouTube for free bass lessons, and watching music videos of my favorite bands. This time, I was watching the bassist. I noticed immediately that the bassist and the drummer in every band I loved were LOCKED IN together. “Wait, you’re telling me these two get along?!” Oh, they more than got along. They’re essential to each other’s success. Once I recognized this, I was hooked…again. I scrounged together some funds and took to Craigslist searching for a bass guitar. I found one in great condition being sold by a collector in town. He was a Lawyer with a PhD, and a bass player in a band full of other PhD’s aptly named “PhDelicious.” Groovy. I slipped the man 2 benjamins and I was off to the races. Within weeks I had learned the fretboard, basic scales, and how to read a chord chart. I struggled a bit with transposing, but hey, we managed. What made the bass guitar so accessible to me was my foundation as a drummer. I could understand what drummers were doing, and I could accent and compliment them with my bass playing. The bass became my 2nd love.
I stuck with bass and the occasional drumming for the next couple of years. When I graduated high school I decided to continue exploring other instruments. I picked up an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and eventually learned enough about the piano to fake it ‘til I make it. Now, nearing 30 years old, I play a little bit of everything. I write songs, perform, and record with other musicians. I love the variety of perspectives each instrument provides.
My journey with music has led me from one instrument to the next. But it all began with a solid, rhythmic foundation on the drums that gave me a leg up in learning other instruments. I’m a big believer that if you start with the drums, you can learn anything else. I may be a jack of all trades, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
If you would like to listen to some of Park’s music, then you can check out his band JUCO here!