15 minutes

I walked down the aisle past the piano keyboards, past cymbals on display looking like shiny branches on short trees, heading toward the loudest drum section in the back. Music equipment was everywhere on display – calling for
a test drive. The chairs were set up facing the stage. A jazz clinic was about to take place, the special guest performing at a local venue.


I arrived with little background information, yet was immediately defensive at what I observed. A man appeared to have cornered the guest asking for a LOT
of autographs and kept referring to his phone. Immediately I suspected these autographs were headed for ebay and this man was actively listing each item.

I applaud myself for how wrong I was.

The actual story is so much better.

The local music store had invited our high school jazz ensemble to participate in a clinic with Randy Brecker. Before you immediately judge me on my “I’ve read the album covers and know all the musicians involved for the past 50 years knowledge”, I’ll share with you that I cut my teeth in the 80’s dancing all night to every song I could sing & dance to. Certainly the birthplace of karaoke.

The jazz band took the stage and performed their first piece. Randy Brecker
rose from his seat, ascended the few stairs, greeting the musicians on stage. Humbling even the band director, the clinic began with Randy taking the microphone – ‘I can’t critique this…can I play with you guys?’ I think only a handful of the students could grasp that they were about to play with a
musical legend.

A little background: Randy Brecker is a trumpeter, composer & one of the founding members of Blood Sweat & Tears (1968 album), a Grammy Award winner, has toured behind the Iron Curtain in 1989. A studio musician, sometimes never actually playing with the artists but with ‘credits’ on albums by: Steely Dan, Ringo Starr, Aero Smith, BB King, Chaka Kahn, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross (see?, I sort of ‘knew’ Randy Brecker…), Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Frank Zappa, George Benson, Paul Simon, The Average White Band, Lou Reed, The Brecker Brothers…to name a few.

According to allmusic.com Randy Brecker has 2,208 credits on albums.

Next, a 17 year old trumpeter from the jazz band came forward to solo – he exchanged some effortless musician-to-musician strategy with Randy. The music they played-back & forth jazz trumpets with support from the band was just incredible. This young trumpet player got a ‘thumbs up’ from Randy Brecker.WAVphoto Randy Brecker

That moment will probably always live with that young man as it began to sink in that he just jammed with a legend.  Unsure if he even heard what Randy said into the microphone to the crowd…”keep your eyes on this kid” kind of thing.
A memorable experience for this group of musicians to share the stage with living history.

The guy with the autographs?

Sometimes I just can’t walk away. I started a conversation with the man with the autographs & a few hundred record albums. Prior to the clinic, Randy sat, patiently signing album cover after album cover with this man.  The best part – they were not going on ebay. This album collection is his hobby. He has several thousand albums in his basement with over 20,000 signatures – his wife draws the line that they must remain there. I asked how willing the musicians are to sign autographs. He told me one person met him for coffee the morning following a concert and signed a few hundred while they talked.


Randy Brecker at Cascio Music 2014

After all the albums were autographed, Randy Brecker took a small breath, handed the marker back, reflected saying, “Wow, that was my whole life
in 15 minutes”.

I doubt he’ll get credit on an album for his appearance on a small stage in a music store on a winter afternoon, but the almost 70 year old Randy Brecker made a difference that day.


small gesture

In this big world, it’s the small things. One small gesture of human kindness speaks volumes to the heart.

Hollywood screen writers could make this stuff up, but it means so much more when it’s unprompted & genuine.

My son was ten when we moved half way across the country. Honestly, I was more concerned with my 13 year old daughter finding friends. My son was the one who would reach out to the underdog, befriend the new kid, listen patiently to the quiet one in class and was completely stunned when he found himself as that new kid without an ally. The course of events in a growing school district meant while new schools were being built, my son had the ‘opportunity’ to attend 4th thru 7th grades in different schools (one change due to our move).

The first day of another new school transition into 7th grade, he came home with a smile in his voice and said, “I finally found someone who speaks my language!”  His language — drums. The boys talked drums and everything drumming, evaluating every rock band, drumming style, equipment set up and dreams of a big stage. High school finds two friends who enjoy the peaks & endure the valleys of finding out who they are, what they need from the world and continue a mutual respect of each other’s skills. Drumming connects them again, still.

The year of high school “lasts” has to happen to find their way into the big world.

They’ve played in the jazz band for the Jazz Dance for years. An incredible evening of music that hundreds of parents, grandparents, siblings and friends enjoy. These two kids alternate playing the drum set throughout the evening. The last song starts with my son on the set, the final song of the night, the last song of their years together as jazz drummers. The four hour evening rapidly coming to a close with the next down beat.

My son starts in with both hands & both feet moving with some innate, remarkable ability, dynamics known only to drummers. What I saw next humbled me. My son handed his extra sticks to his friend standing on the edge of the stage and nodded toward the cymbal…the slight nod of encouragement to, yes, you have to play, yes, now.

They speak the same language.

I ask him about it, his reply, a slight lift of one shoulder, its no big deal, mom. The small gesture spoke volumes to my heart.



WAVphoto Chris VonDerLinn
‘the things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling’
~fabienne frederickson

I know a young man who has passion.
Passion in how he learns, the quantity of knowledge he has, his joy in sharing his gift with the world.

This young man is a drummer who was born with rhythm coursing through his veins and always a steady heartbeat, barely able to contain his drumming fingers…always at the dinner table, frequently on a drum set.

I know this drummer. I gave birth to him.

‘Passionate’ is the perfect description of his enthusiasm of all things percussion. As a barely two year old trying to configure a drum set using a coffee can, tape, paper plates & a barbecue skewer, frustration mounting as the high-hat cymbals wouldn’t open & close like he saw in a Beatles video.

Shortly after, a December holiday brought an entire drum set–and at his birthday party only 3 weeks later he shared his drumming passion with the world. Ok…maybe to most of his first grade class and all the neighbors.

What I admired about his performance was he didn’t know if he was a great drummer or an ok drummer. He just wanted to play. And he played along with the Beatles music and he started the party.

WAVphoto Chris VonDerLinn

So this passion continues and gets deeper (as does his song selection) over the years to include all genres of music. It’s a pleasure to watch the evolution of his style and skill as he proceeds through each phase. I am grateful that heavy-metal was relatively short lived and that jazz is in the heavy rotation.

When I see passion in a young person, it’s not forced. It’s an inner drive, strength, motivation. An athlete on the practice field before the team, the artist who has filled every page of the sketchbook before the semester begins, the mountain climber who has studied the map well before the hike. The drummer who is on the stage for every performance that involves music: the pit musical, the symphonic & orchestra concerts, the student showcase, marching band & jazz bands. And then playing through his selections for hours at a time on his set in the basement. Without applause. Drumming is the blood that keeps him alive.WAVphoto Chris VonDerLinn

Where does it come from? I’d like to take a little credit – for the 9 months I carried him I taught step aerobics to a perfect 8 count…

…but that doesn’t explain why, on one of the coldest days in winter, he packed up his set (breaking down drums, stands, cymbals, amps), loaded the pieces into his car – unloaded them at school, set up the drum set, rocked the stage for his Tri-M (music honor society) recital, then took the whole kit apart, in the car, home & back into the basement. It was well below zero degrees F. I know because I was ‘helping’ him get it packed into his car at the school, when everyone else was gone. The janitor was already cleaning the hallway outside the room. There was no applause, just frostbite. Frostbite and passion.