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Letter from the Publisher: The Call of the Drum

by on April 25, 2019 12:34 PM

Drumming is in my blood. It’s been 45 years since I first picked up a pair of drumsticks. Rhythm was introduced to me at a very early age, through the pounding beat of the steel mills and railroads near my Johnstown home. Every night I would fall asleep to the thunder of the hydraulic hammer. All I ever wanted to do as a boy was play the drums. In the fourth grade, my school offered proper music lessons, but only for string and woodwind instruments. I declined and waited until the following year, when brass and drum were offered. A pair of 2B sticks and a simple wood practice pad would soon be my introduction to years of percussive happiness.

Until then, I would randomly beat on tables, boxes, and coffee cans with pencils and sticks. Pie tins served as cymbals. Now, I had real knowledge of keeping time and drum rudiments. I learned that the entire universe revolved around counting to four. I also learned that “e-and-a” could be squeezed between each number. Then I was thrown a curve.

Every Sunday after Mass, my mom would tune in to the local radio polka show. Of Slovak decent, this was our music! Over lunch, I would be immersed in the world of polkas, waltzes, and obereks. It was soon clear to me that counting to two and three were equally important. My earliest paying gigs were with polka bands.

My father was a steelworker. In those days, the mills worked around the clock in shifts. Every two weeks his shift would change. This meant that I could only practice when he wasn’t sleeping. Somehow it all worked out. My mom was very tolerant of my drumming. She was a homemaker and had to listen to it a lot more that my dad. I am very appreciative of my parents for allowing me to pursue this passion. Never once did they criticize my choice or try to talk me out of it.

By the time I reached junior high school, I had to choose between football and band. I loved football, but I loved playing drums even more. It was a tough call, but in those days, you couldn’t do both. I am pleased that today’s students can.

My high school years were spent with a pair of drum sticks in the back pocket of my jeans. By then, I had developed a rock ’n’ roll heart and spent the next two decades playing in bands. Between club dates and day jobs, I would also sit in as a tympani player or percussionist with various civic bands and orchestras. 

Much older now and traveling a different career path, I still find myself laying down a beat to the windshield wipers on a rainy day.

I play whenever I can. When I sit behind the drums, I’m oblivious to time, subconsciously bending it, while keeping it. The drums will forever call out to me.



Bernard A. Oravec


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