The beat goes on
Cupids teen drums his way to success
It’s Thanksgiving weekend 2009 and most of the young people who would normally be in the congregation at the Pentecostal church in Port de Grave are attending a convention. Out of the blue, Joey Curtis of Cupids gets a phone call: “ Will you play the drums for Sunday’s services?” Duh. Silly question. Is rain wet? The 14-year old performs in his church for the very first time on Oct. 11, 2009. He’s been a regular on the music schedule ever since.
“I like fooling around, doing what I like to do, making lots of noise,” is the way he describes his passion.
He’s been beating on objects and smacking his hands on anything within reach since he was six. In church, he even used pencils as drumsticks to beat on hymnbooks lined up on his pew.
Listening to drummers awakened in him a keen desire to learn to play the instrument himself. So he asked his parents for a drum set.
Instead, they bought him a drum practice pad. Joey beat on that for at least three years. He placed other objects around him, even pots and pans. “I had a bucket a few times,” he says with a grin. “I cracked my sticks off the floor and the side of the bed.” He used anything that “made different noises.” That’s how he
Joey Curtis’ grandmother, Gwen Ralph of Port de Grave, is his strongest supporter.
taught himself to play drums.
Three years ago, when his parents realized he was serious about drumming, they invested $1,000 in Joey’s own set of drums. Now, the Curtis home is alive with the sound of drum rolls, flams and paradiddles.
Joey’s sister, Cassondra, says good-naturedly, “Sometimes it gets annoying.” His mother, Christine, admits the incessant beating gave her a headache at first.
But not for long, because everybody began to realize he was becoming one mean drummer.
Joey’s father, Leroy, used to be a long-haul truck driver. The duo spent an entire summer traveling in the American south, exposing the boy to a wide variety of musical tastes, including jazz, rock and country. Joey spent hours cranking out the beat with his bare hands.
Perhaps the little drummer boy’s strongest supporter is his grandmother, Gwen Ralph of Port de Grave. Laying her hands on his shoulders, she says, “I can’t believe Jesus gave me the best grandson in the world.” Hold on … isn’t he her only grandson? At least, she can’t be accused of favouritism!
A musician herself — Ralph plays piano in church and teaches through Music For Young Children — she knows good music when she hears it.
She’ll never forget the first time Joey accompanied her on drums, calling it “one of the proudest moment in my life.” No matter what she played, he simply “ had the beat.”
Joey was a tad nervous at first, but he deals with that by focusing on his drums, not on his audience.
“ When I listen to music, I can feel it,” he says. “It kind of gets your head going and you can dance to it.”
He drums up the occasional gig outside church. Two years ago, he drummed for two singers in an Amalgamated Idol con-
The Curtis home in Cupids is often alive with the sound of drum music. Here, Joey Curtis bangs out a beat.