“You’re going be playing bass this year” said Mr. Mitchell. During the school year 1970 – 1971, my eighth grade year, I was looking forward to band class. Mitchell was my band teacher during my 6th and 7th grade years and I enjoyed how he could work with a group of kids, teach the parts to each kid so he or she could understand what they were doing. Then he would have them play the parts over and over, and when they got it right, he would praise them. His praises were the kind that would make a kid do anything to get. He always had complete control over his class, and he always made the music fun.
I had fun learning snare drum in 5th grade with Mr. Sanders. My parents bought me a snare drum, which they regretted doing later. I practiced all the time and drove my family and neighbors crazy. I got to be friends with Steve Sanders who was a drummer too, and to this day still walks circles around me when he drums! Playing snare with him during my 7th grade year was a lot of fun. He was always showing me and teaching me, cool things to play, and little tricks here and there. I was thinking this year that Steve and I would be on the snare drums again, and I had my drumsticks ready.
I walked into the classroom, which was up on the stage, with my 2B drumsticks, and let Mitchell know I was ready to play snare! “Put your sticks away, you’re going be playing bass drum this year.” said Mitchell “No way!” I said, “Steve and I were on snare this year!” “Mr. Cummins, you are my bass drummer this year” Mitchell responded smiling. “Not going to happen!” I said, “Get one of those other guys to play bass.” ”Look at the other drummers” Mitchell said pointing at the other guys, “now look at the bass drum.” The bass drum was taller than all the other drummers except Bob Leary. I could see where Mitchell was coming from, we were a marching band and a concert band. When we marched we needed a big guy to carry the bass drum.
“Have Leary play bass” I said. “No, I’ve got something else in mind for Mr. Leary” Mitchell countered. “Mr. Cummins, you’re playing bass because you’re big, and you got the beat.” I was really upset, but when he said I had the beat, I calmed down, and agreed that I would play bass. Mitchell always knew how to pull my strings! I played bass all year, and I had a blast doing it! Mitchell was a great teacher, and I’m so glad I got to play for three years under him!