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Hodge Hill School, Presentation for students (AM) - Braidwood School, Drum Circle for the deaf children (PM) - Birmingham UK - April 2003

Hodge Hill School, Presentation for students (AM) - Braidwood School, Drum Circle for the deaf children (PM) - Birmingham UK - April 2003

(Please note the term d/Deaf is a term of empowerment)
Spending the day with Carl!
- David Goddard

I work in a large school in Birmingham (UK), and we have just welcomed a school for the d/Deaf to relocate to our site. We wanted to mark the event with something special – and did we get something special! I've been an ELP fan since 1970, and a fan of CarlŐs since his brother, Steve, introduced me to Atomic Rooster.

I contacted Frank Askew (see the drum clinics page), and asked if Carl might be interested in doing some work with our hearing students and then doing a drum circle with the d/Deaf students in the afternoon.

He phoned back to say that Carl would be very interested as he wanted to work with young people – particularly if they had special needs. The date was arranged and the anticipation began.

Frank is a really nice man, and we spent quite a long time talking on the phone in preparation. (Frank is a drummer and Co-author of the ELP Biography - The Show That Never Ends.)

Just prior to the visit, Frank asked me if I would mind him giving Carl my number, so he could clarify a few things. As if I would! The next day, my mobile rang, and the voice at the other end said "Hi, Dave, it's Carl Palmer here..." I'd spoken to Carl after a couple of gigs, and found him incredibly easy to talk to, and he was just the same on the phone, while we sorted out a rough programme.

On the day, Frank and Carl arrived an hour before we expected them, which was brilliant. We did a few introductions, and moved the van nearer the venue. We used what will be the Library in the new building, as it is quite large. It needed to be, because Carl and Frank brought 200 drums with them! We had many willing helpers.

The morning session was with hearing students. We started with some of our students performing for Carl. Two of our students play a type of drum from India, called a dhol. They are double ended, one being a bass. Carl was intrigued, and was very keen to try – a fine job he made of it!

Then our school band played a couple of numbers, and impressed Carl enough for him to sit in and jam for a while. We had a short break, and Carl talked and answered questions from the students. Then came the highlight of the morning, Carl had brought the snare from his new metal kit, and a hi hat. Frank suggested I might like to get a bit closer to see – you do not turn an offer like that down, so I moved to within about two meters. Carl gave the students – and me – a blistering demonstration of his skills. (The man just seems to get faster and more skilful each time I see him.) Actually to see how Carl does a one handed single-stroke roll is a lesson in itself.

Before we broke for lunch, Carl made a very clear message to the students, "If someone gives you an opportunity, then take it." Very true.

The afternoon session began with the arrival of the d/Deaf students. They had brought signers with them so they were very quickly organized. Carl chatted to the signers and explained what he was going to try to do.

Initially, the hearing students stayed out of the way until Carl had started the session, and then they joined in. (As an aside, I was very impressed with how safety conscious Carl was throughout the day, such as placing the heavier drums in place, so that the students would not have to lift them.)

Carl has had plenty of chance to learn to work an audience, but I think that this was the first time he had worked one where none of them could hear, but he rose to the challenge brilliantly. He used his body and face to help convey what he wanted the students to do.

Within minutes he had a complex rhythm going around the circle. This was built on, and if you had come into the room after ten minutes you would probably not believe that the students were d/Deaf. The hearing students now joined in.

Carl developed some very complex patterns, and as he explained to the press, d/Deaf children can see the beat of a drum so they do not have to rely on other senses.

(As a teacher it was apparent that Carl must have put hours into preparing for this event – if ever you want to change jobs, Carl, you'd make a brilliant teacher!)

All too soon, the session was nearing an end – the d/Deaf students needed to be transported out, but Carl showed what a perfectionist he is, yet again. He worked them until they all finished exactly together – what an achievement that was, I will always remember the look on the students' faces. There was a look of absolute pride in their achievement.

The students helped load the van, and it was time for Carl and Frank to leave.

On a personal note, I had a fantastic day, I saw students achieving beyond their own personal potential levels, and I spent the day with Carl Palmer. Carl could not do too much to help, and Frank was a tremendous help throughout. Everyone wonders if the people they admire are as nice as we think they are. In Carl's case this is more than true. He is a gentleman, a scholar and an acrobat.

Remember Carl's advice – if you are offered an opportunity, then take it. If you work with young people and you would like to experience the magic, give Frank Askew a call. Don't just take my word for it; here are some comments by the young people who took part:

(Sharnette) – I am a girl who is leaning to play the drums. I have lessons and I have recently had an audition for our city symphony orchestra. I love to play the drums, and was really inspired by Carl. His speed and technique are unbelievable. Our teacher spoke about inspiration before we met Carl, and I now know what that really means. One day I will be as good as Carl, even if I have to practice all day, every day. I'm going to see Carl with his band soon and can't wait to see a solo with a full kit, if the snare solo was anything to go on. (Carl gave me a pair of sticks – I've got them in bubble-wrap in my wardrobe.)

(Mark) – I'm a 12 year old boy, and I am learning the drums. I'd never heard of Carl before he came to be honest, but now I've become a huge fan. Carl had his photo taken with me, and he also autographed my sticks. I don't think I could ever be that good, but I am certainly going to try.

(Jettender) – I am a 14 year old girl and I am d/Deaf. We do music at school, so I was looking forward to the drum workshop. What I got out of it most was working with other people, d/Deaf and hearing, and working together to perform. The man who led it was very nice – he used a lot of facial expressions to help us understand. There were a lot of drums.

(Letitia) – I am a 15 year old girl and I play saxophone in the school band. I have only been playing for a short time – about two years. Carl made me realize how lucky I am to be able to perform music. His stories about his life were very interesting, particularly as he comes from Birmingham – I know some of the places he was talking about. I will certainly take any opportunities I am offered.

The "you couldn't make it up moment"...

The local news crews were filming the event in the afternoon, so there were a variety of people coming and going. Carl had arranged the seating into a rough circle, and had been working roughly in the middle. There was a natural break, and Carl was just confirming something with one of the signers, when out of nowhere two men with ladders made their way to the centre of the circle, climbed up, and started to dismantle a fire alarm sensor on the ceiling. They were persuaded that their bosses would not appreciate them being centre stage on the evening news, so they left. Carl continued as if nothing had happened.

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