The jokes are endless. What's the difference between a musician and a savings bond? The savings bond eventually matures and makes money. What do you call someone who hangs out with musicians? A drummer. What did the drummer get on his IQ test? Drool. Et cetera.
I belong to a most disreputable subspecies, scientific name Findesemanis Tambor ("drummer who mostly plays on the weekends"). My redeeming trait is that I have a day job. That generally means two things. One, like many of my peers, I have no illusions about being a rock star. I've been playing for more than 30 years, and there are 9-year-olds who could wipe the floor with me at a drum-off. I keep my vices to a dull roar, a good beer notwithstanding. I am fundamentally introverted at heart, and within 30 seconds of the last note, I mostly just want to go home. Which leads me to the second thing.
A few years back, I was having lunch with my dear friend and long-time lead singer Phil, along with my wife's office manager. She asked us why we started playing music. Phil, as group leader and spokesman, talked about the happiness our style of music (roots rock/R&B) brings to people, and the joy of making a connection with our community. Being me, I chimed in, "I thought it was because we wanted to meet girls." Obligatory chuckles, then a "but seriously." We play for the love of the art form, and because it brings joy to others.
Of course, by then, we had each long ago met the girl. My wife and I have two beautiful, smart, engaging children. And there are days when I kiss them all goodbye in the morning on the way to work, and I don't see them until midnight, which can be very hard on them. Which is not to say that I'm not conscious of dates and family commitments: birthdays, anniversaries, karate class, ballet performances, allowing my wife time for Zumba classes — all pretty much non-negotiable. And I wouldn't have it otherwise.
My family has to make a lot of concessions. I get cranky when we play a disappointing show, or if I go a few weeks without playing at all. But I do my best to be sensitive and attentive, and I pray that they know I am always there for them.
Our daughter did once tell me that she misses me when I leave to play music. I told her I miss my family too, and I often wish I didn't go. She then said, "But, Dad, you love playing so much."
And ultimately that's why I play. For the joy of expression. For therapy where I don't have to meet a deductible. For the feelings that our music inspires in our audience (we hope). And for the few times my family is able to see a show, to share in that happiness, in the most universal of the arts.
David Mathieu lives in Phoenix.