I hail from a small(ish) town called Muskegon, Michigan. We’ve got a few “claims to fame,” but for the drumming community, one of the proudest is being the hometown of Derico Watson.
Derico is a powerhouse of a player with plenty of chops and super deep pocket, but even more importantly, he just exudes joy and passion when he plays. He’s passionate about many things actually, he is a natural medicine advocate, and talks to everyone who will listen about the benefits of alternative medicine over conventional. Not many people consider alternatives when they get sick, but many that have been around him do now because of the wealth of knowledge he has on the subject. If you want to look into this further you can go here to check out alternative medicine.
Perhaps best known for his work with Victor Wooten, Derico has had a huge impact on the drummers hailing from this part of the world, myself included. Even though I missed the opportunity to study with him when I was younger, products of his education exist across our local scene – and his influence (in my humble opinion) has raised the bar for the drummers of West Michigan.
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a clinic of Derico’s at RIT Music – Grand Rapids not too long ago, and to put it briefly, I had a fantastic time.
The format of the clinic was loose, mostly Q&A and our host playing along to various tracks (many of them produced by an attendee!). He also played us a solo he’s been working on – its first time being performed in public – with a pretty baffling left hand/hihat ostinato…
The music was all wonderful, and the playing suberb, but as I mentioned, a huge part of what separates Derico from others is the palpable, undeniable love he has for the instrument. He smiles, he scowls, he shouts, he’s so obviously enjoying himself that as an audience member, you can’t help but do the same.
This quality alone is hugely inspirational (not to mention the sheer facility and musicality he plays with). It comes through in his personality too. The clinic felt lighthearted, with people just calling out questions or making jokes. He had plenty of old friends and family in the audience too, all the more adding to the intimate and informal vibe.
My favorite part, though – and if you’ve read other things here, maybe it’s a theme – was “the hang.” I didn’t get a ton of chances to catch up with all the people in the room, but pretty much all of the dope drummers I know in West Michigan were there, and still more I didn’t know.
There’s something encouraging about looking around a room at faces of concentration, of joy, of sheer awe, and knowing that every last one of them has something critical in common with you – DRUMS. The span of styles (just among the people I know) was tremendous, and so was the representation of various cities and towns in this area… And that’s a big fat reminder that the DrumFam is alive and well.
Not only was the clinic educational and inspirational, but being in the presence of so many peers – all of whom I know I could learn something (many things) from – was just… Invigorating.
My point is this: engage with the community. Go to clinics. Make friends with drummers. We’ve got a rare thing here, and every last one of us has plenty to teach… And even more to learn.
Huge thanks to Derico for spending his time with us, and thanks to all the drummers (and other musicians) who came out to support. You all inspire me a ton.
RIT’s Facebook page livestreamed most of the clinic as well, which you can check out here!