YMCA drum lessons target ‘healthier lifestyle'

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Shelly Birkelo
Friday, September 20, 2013

JANESVILLE—Doug Combs got the beat.

He was learning to play drums Thursday with instructor Marty Morgan in an upstairs room at the downtown YMCA.

The 57-year-old Evansville man who works as a registered nurse enrolled in the new four-week offering just for fun.

“I have a little electronic drum set at home, play for personal enjoyment and to aggravate my wife,” he said with a laugh.

Combs came prepared with a recorder for his second lesson.

“Great idea,” Morgan said as Combs pulled his drums sticks out of a cloth-zippered pouch and removed his shoes so he could play the kick drum in his stocking feet.

“I have more control and it's more comfortable for me to count the beats,” he said.

As the lesson began, Morgan counted: “One, two and three and four. One, two and three and four,” as the two played together.

“Pick up the beat,” Morgan said.

“There ya go,” he told Combs, who smiled in amazement after realizing what they had just played.

Jamie Seitz, fitness director at the YMCA, said the Y offers drum lessons because it doesn't want to be "just the old gym and swim."

"Health is just not fitness," Seitz said. "We're trying to make sure there is an option for everybody in the community to partake in the Y.
"We're trying to go outside the box--a different twist on creating a healthier lifestyle."
Drumming lets students come out of their own selves and find new things to help them be successful in their personal lives, she said.
"It's a workout in its own right, too, banging on those drums and working up a sweat," Seitz said.
Seitz said the YMCA also offers guitar lessons and plans to offer piano lessons, too.

As Combs drummed, Morgan reminded him to lead with his right hand and to let the sticks bounce.

“Don't be afraid to hit them,” Morgan demonstrated as he banged the wooden sticks against the drums.

When Combs put together what he'd learned last week with what he was learning Thursday, Morgan could tell he'd been practicing at home.

“That's awesome,” he praised Combs.

Combs is among students ages 6 and older enrolled in the half-hour Thursday night drum lessons. Morgan tailors the one-on-one lessons to the students.

“I very often cater to what the student wants to learn,” he said. “In my experience, if the student doesn't want to be there, he's not going to practice at home. And if it's stuff they don't want to learn, they won't put effort into it. So, I make if fun and something they want to come and do.”

Morgan said his students learn how to read music, play grooves and play in rhythm.

Anyone can play drums with a little patience and a bit of determination, he said.

“You might have never held a drum stick in your hand, but I can get you to become a drummer,” Morgan said.

He starts with the basics and builds complexity.

Morgan, 25, Waukesha, taps his 13 years of drumming experience.

He graduated from Orange County High School of the Arts and earned a college degree from Musicians Institute in Hollywood, Calif. He teaches private drum set lessons in his drum studio in Waukesha, plays in the pit orchestra for musicals at the Janesville Performing Arts Center and plays shows in Madison, Milwaukee and elsewhere in Wisconsin.

The ages and goals of Morgan's students vary, but Morgan said he enjoys passing on his knowledge to all of them.

“I've spent a lot of years learning about drums,” he said. “It's really fun for me to make sense of it to other people; not just to tell them but to have them actually understand things about drums.”

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