There but for the grace of music, go I...
At the ages about of 6 and 7 my younger brother and I were enrolled in pipe band in Glenrothes. Calum was to be a piper, and I, the piper’s labourer AKA a drummer. I suppose everyone remembers stages of their childhood in different ways. There are little tricks our memories play on us but from what I can remember and from stories my family told over the years, Calum exuded confidence while I was more reserved and introverted. He was cheeky and funny and always laughing and getting up to mischief, and I sort of followed him around reluctantly. I had this weird little habit of swinging my jaw from side to side. A habit that adults in my life would regularly remind me to be aware of and to try to refrain from. But trying to stop this was really difficult for me it. I felt a sense of relief from it and being asked to stop filled me with dread.
Anyway, every Monday and Thursday evening armed with our practice instruments, Calum with his chanter and me with my drum pad and sticks, we’d hop on a bus and head to band practice at a local primary school come community centre. I think this was the first time I ever felt a part of something outside of family. I can’t tell you what my brother experienced in the room next door but for me, there was a sense of belonging, familiarity and structure. Nobody ever told me to stop swinging my jaw. Maybe I didn’t do it when I was drumming. I don’t really know because it’s not necessarily something I was aware of in the first place. We were a group of kids who attended twice weekly to practice rudiments around classroom desks and that was the only focus for that hour.
At this point it was very, very basic stuff. I didn’t really think of this at the time, but in perennially whacking sticks upon our rubber pads, we were learning to play in time and to play together while instilling the coveted sense of rhythm that so many crave. And I’ll be honest with you man, it was boring at times. Our teacher had a tough job trying to keep us invested in what he knew to be the only way to achieve this in-built rhythm that was essential to our becoming drummers. He kept us interested by teaching us a variety of rudiments, each slightly more appealing than the previous, but rudiments nonetheless. We all wanted to be soloists. We all wanted to go home and show our families and friends how accomplished we were, but the teacher kept us on track. A stick of spearmint chewing gum also acted as a well-placed incentive, perhaps that also served as a preventative measure from this bizarre little tick of mine.
After years of persistent attendance, at the age of 12, my mum got a job at St Andrews University and we moved to our new home by the sea. We were then enrolled in the City of St Andrews Pipe Band where I was introduced to drum sheet music and very soon became a member of the novice and juvenile division of the band. I became particularly close with 2 other side drummers and enjoyed a few years of competing with the band at Highland Games across the country as well as Scottish, European and world championship events. These were incredible experiences. We were part of not only the pipe bands we were members of but a wider community of bands from all over the world. We’d turn up, kilt-clad, for the 6am bus every Saturday of every summer and head off to these events full of energy and enthusiasm for the craft. Although, I don’t recall ever winning anything.
Then at the ages of about 14 or 15 Calum and I got guitars. This might seem like a segue to some but for me it was a continuation of what I was already doing. Calum got a black and white Encore electric and I think my mum picked up second-hand, nylon-stringed acoustic for me. Within about 3/4 months I was a pretty good guitarist and I now put this down to hours upon hours of rhythm training over years of focused practice. When I left home at 16 and rocked up in Glenrothes, I knew no one so I spent all my time playing guitar. About 6 or 7 hours a day. Then I started to meet musicians around town, like-minded teenagers who cared for little other than rock music and partying. At this point the quiet, shy, reserved Rhuari was no more. I squeezed into their social groups and was accepted because of my talent and because of my charisma and personality. I was one of them and many of them are still close friends to this day.
Ok, so I do believe that our personalities are a product of every experience we encounter throughout our lives and that this is a continuous process. It would be an ignorant disservice to everyone in my life to attribute all my relationships to music and equally dismissive of my own efforts outside of music. I am not only music. And thankfully so. Let’s be honest, I am very much a Marmite situation (as is every musician) and this was not intended to be a piece about me being amazing and I really don't consider myself to be so. I play music because I love it and it means the world me not because I think that others think I’m good at it. But all of this is factual. I would not have met those 'moshers' in Glenrothes if I wasn’t a singer-songwriter and whether I was talented or only perceived myself to be so, this is how I infiltrated the group. I would not have learned guitar quite so quickly had it not been for my drum lessons. I still swing my jaw from time to time when I’m watching TV or lost in thought, but I have a great deal more control over it and it doesn’t cause me nearly as much anxiety when someone points it out or tells me to stop.
I’m still by no means perfect with social interaction. I cringe at some of the awkward moments I’ve created by saying weird stuff or acting both overly introverted and extroverted, depending on my mood. I just can’t think who I’d be without music. While it’s not all I am, it is certainly, as far as I’m concerned, the majority of what I am. I suppose the purpose behind this piece is to illustrate how music influenced me socially and what it can do for every other person in this world.