The beat goes on

Cupids teen drums his way to suc­cess

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION - BY BUR­TON K. JANES

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.

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