If a rock band were a living, breathing entity, each instrument would correspond to an essential element that gives life its spark and unique identity.
The singer provides the vocal tracks and leads the band as its front man, acting as the voice and the face. Guitars make up the physical body, with the rhythm guitar as the skeletal foundation that the lead solo guitar can lay atop as the flesh and blood of the band. The booty gets shaking thanks to the bass guitar, whose funky notes are home to the band’s soul. But it is the drummer that is the heart, the internal metronome perpetually keeping track of time.
National Drummer Day falls on Nov. 15 each year and, as described by nationaltoday.com, it is “a celebration of all drummers and everything to do with drumming,” and rightfully so.
On a basic level, the act of drumming is just using all four limbs independently from each other to create a barrage of sound that, by all intents and purposes, should result in a musical mess. But when done by a drummer, a really good drummer especially, somehow the chaotic polyrhythms come together to create something that actually makes sense and, most importantly, is fun for both the drummer and the listener.
Michael Aquila, 20, is a drummer and a junior at the University of Miami studying chemistry with the hopes of pursuing a career in the medical field. Originally from Haddon Township, New Jersey, Aquila crashed a pair of sticks against drums and cymbals for the first time four years ago.
While watching a friend play the popular musical video game series “Guitar Hero,” Aquila felt the rhythm of the drums from deep within, and said to himself, “Well, this sounds cool!” From that day forward, Aquila was infected by the rhythm, constantly tapping increasingly complex beats with his hands and feet before taking a seat behind his first drum kit.
“The drummer is known for keeping the time and being the heartbeat of the band. It’s good to recognize that every band is a unit in itself made of working parts, and the whole is greater than the sum of those parts,” Aquila said about the holiday.
Primarily a scientist, Aquila argues that science and music have a lot more in common than we think.
“Science is art. Everything about life is really art. Life imitate arts,” he said.
Perhaps due to the chaotic nature of a drummer’s brain, Aquila was easily able to liken chemistry to drumming.
“In chemistry you have reactions. Drumming, you have interactions,” Aquila added. “With your bandmates, you have to look and communicate. Science is all about communication. Science is a very collaborative field, and so is music.”
Collaboration is Aquila’s favorite thing about his craft.
“Frost [School of Music] has so many talented people,” said Aquila. “You meet so many cool people in the music industry, and being in a science field, this isn’t something I would have really gotten just from doing that. So, it’s a new experience where you get to know the more artistic side of yourself.”
According to Aquila, the secret to being a great drummer is having fun.
“Anybody who is having a great time playing drums is a great drummer. Do what you love. Drumming is a hobby for some, or a lifestyle for others. As long as you’re having fun, you’re drumming right.”
Aquila is the drummer for cover band “Uniform Crew,” which features an array of students from the Frost School of Music. Uniform Crew plays every Friday night at 8:30 p.m. at Threefold Café in downtown Coral Gables.