Five Things You Need To Know About Playing Drums On A Broadway Show

If you are at all interested in finding work as a musician playing drums on a Broadway musical, I can certainly give a few tips. I’ve been fortunate to have played in several over the past 17 years and I’ve learned a  little from each one I’ve been in.

Each of the shows I’ve done have been different, but there are a few things that are similar with all of them. Here are a few things I’ve learned and would love to share:

1) Keep Your Eyes On The Conductor

It might be tough to have to read music, play the drums as well as watch the conductor, but it can be done. In fact, it must be done if you want to get a job and keep one in this business.

Whether you are subbing or if the gig is yours, you want to make the conductor happy. If you are a sub, the conductor wants to feel like not much has changed between you coming in and the regular drummer being out. No two drummers sound the same but if you do your homework, you will sound as close to the regular drummer as possible. On top of that, if you are constantly watching the conductor, they know that you are paying attention to them and in tune with every move they make. It makes them feel more at ease and will make the show better for everyone involved.

2) Be AbleTo Play With A Click Track

Almost every show today has a click track. Not only does it help to keep the choreographer happy by maintaining consistent tempos, it keeps the pace and timing of the show precise. It also eliminates the questioning of the music department when people feel things are too slow or too fast. The click never lies.

With that in mind you must not make the click a liar. You have to be in tune with the steady tempo and, as people say, bury it. Basically, you have to make sure no one hears the click because your playing right in alignment with it. It takes a while to get used to, but after you play with clicks, it can be great for your internal clock as years pass.

3) You Are The Driving Force In The Show

The drummer is the heartbeat of any musical. You are the engine. You are truly in the driver’s seat. Whoever is sitting on that throne must take command…but take all direction from the conductor.

While the drummer may be driving the train, the conductor is giving the directions. Remember, follow the conductor.

The dancers also rely on your drumming for the accents they need for dance moves, and certain cues for beginnings and endings of songs. The drums make a huge impact.

It can be a high pressure position to be the drummer on a Broadway show because there is little room for error. If you don’t play a certain drum fill correctly, it could cause dancers to not enter properly, light cues to not be triggered at the right time, and the main characters could be thrown off. You matter.

4) Be Consistent

Everyone involved in the business of musicals wants one thing; consistency. People travel from all over the world to see Broadway shows and they expect a certain product once they have shelled out their hard earned money. When you sit behind that drum kit, everyone around you expects high quality musicianship. When you play the first note, it should be the same first note that was played the previous night. It should remain consistent for the rest of the run as well. All of the notes must be played the same way every night because it is an entirely new set of audience members seeing the show.

What does that mean to you? Even though it is the same music you played yesterday and the day before or even the same music for the past three years, you have to give it your all and stay focused. It’s not easy to do because over time, people can get bored or burned out. The challenge of playing shows is to know how to channel your focused energy into that three hours you are at the theater.

5) It Is One Of The Best Gigs To Have In New York

The music business has changed over the years and is constantly in flux. Gigs seem to be paying the same as they did 25 years ago, there are fewer places to perform and certain opportunities for drummers no longer exist, or at least, there are fewer of them. The one thing I’ve noticed during my tenure in this business is that more and more musicians are doing whatever it takes to get a long running broadway show.

There are, on average, about 20-25 musicals running at any point on Broadway. If you are the drummer in one of these shows, that means out of the thousands of musicians who come to New York every year to be in the music business, you are one of about 20 drummers to be fortunate enough to have a steady gig. This is a gig that pays pretty well, but also provides health insurance and a pension on top. Plus, if you want to take off to play other gigs, you can take off up to 50% of the shows.

You can be in New York and not have to drag drums around to your gigs. The shows start on time every day and end on time as well. All you have to do is show up….and do 1-4 above…as well as many other things. It ain’t easy. It’s even harder to land one of these gigs.

When you do get the call to play a show, and if you follow these rules, you are on a track to be working pretty steadily.

If you have any other questions, shoot me an email: Clayton@claytoncraddock.com or send me a tweet @claytoncraddock

Clayton Craddock is a stay-at-home father of two children in New York City. He has a B.B.A from Howard University’s School of Business and is also a 25 year veteran of the fast paced New York City music scene. He has played drums in a number of hit Broadway musicals including “tick…tick…BOOM, Memphis the Musical and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill with Audra McDonald. He has worked on other musicals; Footloose, Motown, The Color Purple, Bare, Rent, Little Shop of Horrors, Evita, Cats, and Avenue Q and is currently the drummer in a new Broadway bound musical titled Ain’t Too Proud.
Clayton has written for A Voice For Men, The Good Men Project and is writing a memoir about fatherhood.

 

I Miss My Kids

 

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One thing I learned from being away from my kids since July 9th is that I’ll NEVER AGAIN take chances on future success.

Never again. NE-VER!

My days of “hoping things will work out” ended as of right now. I won’t do anything with the hope that things will get better in some unspecified time and place. No more investment now for the unknown future.

The “spec” days are for young folk, not for me.

It’s time for some stability, big payouts and living the next 49 years in the least stressful way as humanly possible.

I love my family more than anything and will be making every move, from now on, with them in mind. My mental and long-term physical health will also be front and center.

Maybe it’s just me, but as cool as things may seem on the surface, some things are just not worth it in the long term. With each passing day, I’m figuring out what really matters to me.

These two matter.

Fatherhood matters.

Raising two people who are going to be the next generation of citizens matters.

It’s time to get back to NYC and be the father I want to be…and have always been.

Nov 7th…I’ll see them again and I’m never leaving them.

 

Clayton Craddock is a stay-at-home father of two children in New York City. He has a B.B.A from Howard University’s School of Business and is also a 17 year veteran of the fast paced New York City music scene. He has played drums in a number of hit Broadway musicals including “tick…tick…BOOM, Memphis the Musical and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill with Audra McDonald.

He has worked on other musicals; Footloose, Motown, The Color Purple, Bare, Rent, Little Shop of Horrors, Evita, Cats, and Avenue Q and is currently the drummer in a new Broadway bound musical titled Ain’t Too Proud.

Clayton has written for A Voice For Men, The Good Men Project and is writing a memoir about fatherhood.

Responsibility

Looking back at how my parents raised me, I realize how important the lessons of responsibility are to children.

I remember my father always reminding me to clean my room. He would make me take out the garbage, mow the lawn, help wash his car and clean the garage. He would offer to wash the dishes if I dried them and vice versa. No, it wasn’t a real offer, it was his way of telling me what I was going to do. He was, in his own way, giving me a small say in the matter.

My mother taught me how to separate the colors when washing clothes, how to iron and fold sheets. She taught me how to dust, polish furniture, how to set the table, how to sew on a button and how to keep our home looking spotless.

My father told me time and time again to stand up straight. He instructed me on how to shake a person’s hand as well as how to speak up with authority.

My mother was supportive. SHE was the one who bought my first set of drums from my cousin. She was the one who said I could make it as a musician. And I eventually did.

I know things are different at my ex-wife’s home, but there is very little I can do about that at this point in my life. All I know is what happens in my home. When our kids are with me, they know that one of their responsibilities is to set the table for the dinner that I cook for them that evening. They also help make the food with me. After we eat, they clear the table,  sweep the floor, and wipe the table and counters. When they sleep over, they make their bed in the morning.

After school each day, my kids know they should never come in my apartment and drop everything to go and play. They must first hang up their coats and put their shoes in the right location. If they get a chance to play after their homework, they take out their toys and put them away where they got them after they are finished. They make sure their room is in the same condition that they found it.

I am starting to notice how my son gets up in the morning, usually before I do, and dresses himself. He is so proud. He also tells me to look in his room because he already made his own bed! My daughter makes it a priority to have her hair washed and styled before we have breakfast in the morning. She also sets the table before we all have breakfast.

While it’s not perfect, after many years as a single father,  it seems like things are starting to get into a groove at daddy’s house. It can be rough on a single person to run a home as the only adult. I don’t recommend it at all. I still don’t see the attraction of the choice of single parenthood. Since I was forced into this life, I will make the best out of difficult situation.

I love the day-to-day aspects of raising children and think having a solid foundation like I had growing up helps. I feel it is important to pass on these values to our children.

I don’t know what other people do, but I feel it is important to teach responsibility to our children and to hold them accountable. It helps prepare them for life on their own.

Many of these lessons last a lifetime.

 

Single Fatherhood in New York City

Back in 2012, I completed an interview for a Columbia University graduate student of journalism named Acacia Squires. She found me through a post I made on a website about single parenthood and thought I would be a good person to talk with about my experiences being a single father in New York City.

I want to share my story.

Some people call it the “pay up or shut up” model; that’s when fathers pay for child support and alimony after divorce, but loose custody of their children. In modern law, parents’ gender shouldn’t matter, only the child’s welfare is important, but research shows that judge’s bias can lead to unequal treatment in the courtroom. In the first of this three part series on single fatherhood, we look at the story of one Manhattan dad and his fight for his children after divorce.

 

John The Lion

 

When I put my kids to sleep, the bedtime ritual can often seem routine. I tend to make it fun when they are with me overnight. I already feel a strong bond with both of my children, but the little things we do with our kids sometimes have greater meaning than we think.

I’ve been telling stories to my daughter ever since I can remember. She is a lot older now, but for the first few years of her life I had this little thing I did before I tucked her into bed. I tell the story of John the Lion and his daddy.

Since I love being creative, I would just make up stories of a little lion and his dad on many adventures. I start out the story with John saying, “daddy…daddy… DADDY! Can we go to….” I would insert a specific place that a kid would want to go, like the zoo, the park, the circus, etc. Then I would keep the story going. Daddy would reply “No John, we can’t go now because it is too……late, or too far…etc..” I would make up some lame excuse. John would plead for his dad to take him and he would finally give in to his request.

The story would unfold from there. I would actually surprise myself with how interesting my stories would be. My daughter LOVED it. It was just a little thing I would do to have a special bond between her and I. It started to fade away during my divorce a few years ago because I was not able to tuck her in to bed. My court order kicked me out of the marital bedroom. Looking back, I would never suggest ANY man agree to be kicked out of their own bedroom or home. Don’t allow the relationship between you and your children ever become interrupted. But I digress.

So, when I finally got my own apartment and the kids would stay with me, I revived John the Lion. Well, at least I tried. Sleeping in a completely different place with a slightly new routine was tough for a while. My son, who was 2, missed his mother and it was still a little rough on my 6-year-old daughter at the time.

I slowly weaved my storytelling back into our bedtime routine over the years. Children tend to be highly adaptable. Now, my 5-year-old son begs me to tell stories. My daughter is even requesting some of the old stories I used to tell her. It’s amazing how I even remember the details of the classics.

The new stories are fascinating to both kids. I guess my 30-plus years of creativity and improvisation as a musician has applications in places I would never suspect. It can be quite a challenge to make up a complete story on the spot, but is incredibly rewarding to see the smile on their beautiful little faces before they fall off to sleep.

Sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference.

This is just one of my favorite parts being a father to two wonderful kids. Maybe one day they will continue John the Lion’s adventures to their children. Something tells me they will.

Rock Band

I spoke with my son yesterday on the phone and asked him how his after school program is going.  Unfortunately, I’ve been out of town so I haven’t been able to see his transition into his new school this fall. Usually, he doesn’t tell me much but he sure was eager to let me know of a new activity.

My little man said he was in a thing they called “Rock Band.”   There is one kid who is about his age who plays guitar. He said, “Dad, I heard him play and he is good.” “He played a bunch of notes really fast on his guitar and I was Iike, WHOA!”

I asked him, “well, what are you going to play?” “Well, I’m playing the drums,”  he replied. He went on to say, “they have a bunch of pieces for the drum set but still need more cymbals, I think” “They gave me some sticks and asked me to play something, so I did.”

He let me know that they were impressed with his ability to play a beat or two. I guess he is a natural at the drums? Maybe it’s genetic.

I asked him how many other kids are in the after school activity. He said there was about five kids total. I said, “that is great!” I asked, “who else is in the band?” He said, “the teacher is playing the bass, and that is it , so far”

I told him its a great foundation for a band. He then told me that after he played a little beat, he let everyone know that his father plays drums too.

He said, “yeah, he’s a PROFESSIONAL!”

They were pretty excited to know that this kid has a dad who actually makes a living from playing music. I guess it elevated his status a little.

It might have been cooler if his dad played in an actual rock band, but I guess, two Tony Award winning broadway musicals ain’t too bad.

I think the kids would want to know what a professional musician does. Maybe I’ll come in an start a school of rock at his school in conjunction with the Rock Band class. Who knows, maybe there will be a musical made from this idea…oh wait….Andrew Lloyd Webber already took that idea.

Oh well.

It’s fun to hear how excited my son is to be involved in that activity. We’ll see if he really wants to spend more time learning drums or doing what he really seems to spend most of his time engaged in. That would be the game of soccer. He is as passionate about soccer as I was about drums at his age.

We’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll give him a lesson or two when I get back to town.