What? She’s the Drummer?

I hope this post makes you smile. Most of all, I hope female readers don’t get angry at Greg, one of the people in the story I’m about to tell.  I think his reaction was predictable because, let’s face it, female drummers are still an uncommon sight.

Several years ago, I teamed up with a keyboard player named RJ. We had booked a gig at a small café . Luckily for us, this café is a fixture in the community. Musicians love to play here. It’s an outdoor venue, so during the height of tourist season, big, eager crowds fill the patio and spill out onto the steps below, digging the music.

Greg, a well-known local songwriter, came upon RJ and I setting up our gear. I heard Greg ask RJ who was drumming for him.  I don’t recall what RJ said, but whatever it was, Greg was having none of it. “No, really,” he said, “who’s your drummer?” The timing couldn’t have been more perfect if a film director had arranged it. Just as the words left Greg’s mouth, my bass drum and I sauntered right in front of him.  You’d be right to think that seeing me lugging this huge drum would’ve been answer enough, but it wasn’t. “Jessica’s playing”, said RJ quietly. Greg broke into a smile. He seemed a bit embarrassed. He didn’t need to be.  It certainly didn’t bother me at all. I’m used to it.

It’s fun to tilt society’s idea of a “woman’s place” right on its silly little head.  I love interactions like the one I had with Greg. It reminds me that female drummers, be they amateur or professional, are pioneers.   The path has been laid, but there’s still so very much to clear.  I’ve been very blessed. Most of the men I’ve run into love the fact that I play, that I’m out there doing my thing.  I’ve been touched by the “boy’s only club” mentality, but thankfully very little.  I know, however, that’s not always true for those who pursue music professionally.  As recent headlines regarding harassment and abuse show, it’s still very much open season on women in all professions who long to realize their ambitions.

I completely support female-oriented publications like TomTom Magazine, who helped to create the wildly popular “Hit Like a Girl” international drumming competition. These forums allow us to reflect back to ourselves what we are and hope to be.  I applaud the advent of all-female music festivals. Our stories need to be told, our contribution to musical history acknowledged and preserved.  I’m able to chase my dream of being a drummer because of the fearless women who came before us.

With that said, I will always believe that the most powerful statement a female drummer, or any musician can make is to just get out there and do it. Let’s keep defying those stereotypes.  If enough of us do, maybe someday, our gender  won’t matter.  To honor those early pioneers, I prefer to present myself as a “drummer”, not a “female drummer”, because I believe that was their ultimate goal.   We’ll no longer be known as  “girl” or “chick” drummers; we’ll be respected as musicians who can lay it down as hard and as musically as we please. And if a woman at a gig walks by holding a bass drum, no one will ever question who she is.