Mark Danger Powers

drummer • educator • author

2 Lessons I SHOULD Have Learned

“Well, I guess you learned your lesson then, didn’t you?”
I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve heard THAT one in my life.

Pondering a few experiences from the last couple of months, I realized that I DO indeed learn something every single time I “fail.” However, I’m not sure if the lessons I take from these failures are the same as most would expect.

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Lesson #1: How to run with the big dogs

Man, did I get my butt kicked in February . . . musically, that is. Twice.

On the 6th of the month, I had the amazing fortune of being asked to accompany Tim Ries, saxophonist for The Rolling Stones, during a clinic he was presenting at the local university. No rehearsal, and we met for the first time onstage, in front of the eager audience. We shook hands and quickly exchanged introductions. Then Tim turned to briefly address the auditorium and BAM . . . we were into the first tune! No matter what you might assume about some dude who tours around, blowing his horn on “Brown Sugar” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” I’m here to tell you, this guy can play some jazz! I’m talkin’ serious. It was apparent in a matter of measures that I was in over my head- he was performing at a level way beyond my comprehension and ability. Determined to prove I could hang with the big boys, I made every attempt to take the tricky little rhythms and melodies he was pumping out and give ’em right back to him. It most likely went unnoticed by the average listener but, time and time again, Tim got me so lost in the form of the song it was ridiculous. Each time I’d eventually get back on track and come back for more. I hung in there for the duration . . . but barely. Did I mention we played the fastest version of “Oleo” I’ve ever heard in my life?

Butt whoopin’ number two: I hosted a clinic by the legendary Donny Osborne (longtime drummer for Mel Torme) on the 21st. Throughout his technique workshop, Donny made several mentions of bringing me up to play alongside him. If you’ve seen and heard this guys incredible chops, you can probably understand why I didn’t exactly want to. Talk about intimidating. Near the conclusion of the clinic, he egged me on once again, and I gave in. So there we sat . . . each with a snare drum and hihat cymbals. I kicked into a simple swing pattern on the hihats, giving Donny room to solo over the top. Then he returned the favor. As we started “trading fours” back and forth, he pulled out all the stops. Stick-on-stick tricks; flashy cymbal flourishes; that uncannily smooth buzz roll. Not to be left in the dust, I did the same. Kind of. Actually, I blew chunks. I got so wrapped up in pulling off these cool little tricks, that I somehow let him get me just as twisted up, turned around and upside down as Tim Ries had a couple weeks earlier.

What I Should Have Learned: I need to practice more/harder, and be prepared for next time!

What I Did Learn: My mistake was that I tried to step it up and meet them where THEY were at, even though THEIR “schtick” is not MY “schtick.” While it IS valuable to devote time to strengthening my weaknesses, when it comes “showtime,” it’s important to be myself, showcase MY strengths and play what I’m best at.

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Lesson #2: Life is short, play hard

A proper paraglider landing is usually into-the-wind, with feet touching down while moving at somewhere around 3 miles per hour. A week and a half ago, due only to my own misjudgement and general “pilot error,” I unintentionally attempted to land flying WITH the wind. At more like 20-22 miles an hour. And got caught up in a power line.

Unbelievably, I didn’t get electrocuted and I was fortunate enough to get away with only minor scrapes on one arm. The utility company came out to cut the line and free my glider, which was also unharmed.

What I Should Have Learned: It’s time to keep my feet on the ground, settle down and stop taking stupid risks.

What I Did Learn: A) Count my blessings; things could always be worse. If it hadn’t been for that power line bringing me to a halt, I could/would have hit the ground moving WAY too fast. Had that been the case, I’m not sure I would have walked away quite so easily. B) Life is short; I’ve got to start packin’ in more of these adventures and bucket list items before one of them kills me. Okay, so that’s perhaps intended a bit tongue-in-cheek. But not entirely. Maybe I’m asking for more trouble than some, by choosing some riskier activities. But no matter who you are, what you do, or how ‘safe’ you play it, you really have no clue when your number will be up. I remember my mother calling to tell me that a bridge I used to travel regularly had just collapsed during rush hour in Minneapolis, dumping 100 vehicles into the Mississippi River. Final count: 13 dead, 145 injured. About a week ago, a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while recounted a horrible incident that happened last year. Her family, shortly after dropping my friend off at the airport, was in a serious car accident that left her brother partially paralyzed. He’s been strong and is, thank goodness, gradually regaining some of his lost movement. It’s absolutely impossible to predict when, where or how tragedies like these will occur. That’s why I fully believe that we either live now or regret it later.

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