The beat goes on
Shell Duckett can trace her love of percussive instruments back to the 1970s.
Watching television as a 10-year-old girl, the sight of Karen Carpenter hammering away on a set of drums put Duckett on top of the world.
“It was the first time I’d seen a female drummer. It was an epiphany … my whole world opened up and I just couldn’t get it out of my head,” said Duckett, sitting and drinking tea in her second-floor studio in the new Langley Arts Council building on Fraser Highway.
It’s here that the Surrey woman plans to offer music and drumming workshops for special needs teenagers throughout spring break.
Surrounded by dozens of instruments, from djembes (hourglass-shaped hand drums) to guitars, ukuleles, sleigh bells and maracas, the founder of Drumfoot Studio is in her element — happy to offer a quick demonstration of hand drumming techniques or to grab a guitar and perform a short, but upbeat, rhyming song she wrote for her students.
It’s a far cry from the pots, pans and wooden spoons Duckett pulled out of the kitchen cabinets and began pounding together when she first decided to become a drummer.
“I didn’t know what the heck I was doing — I just went for it,” she laughed.
Although she can’t recall exactly, Duckett thinks that first performance probably happened some time in the fall, because it was a few months later that she discovered her very first set of drums under the Christmas tree.
She doesn’t remember asking for them, but what she does recall is that they were red and sparkly and loud.
“I sounded terrible. I had no idea how to tune them, I just had to play,” she said with a laugh.
Duckett’s parents — who got upset if the cap was left off the toothpaste — were strangely accommodating when it came to her musical development.
“I could bash the heck out of (the drums) and they wouldn’t say a word.”
She joined the school band and took private music lessons before moving on to college where she studied jazz and found idols in the likes of Buddy Rich and Neil Peart from Rush.
At 19, Duckett joined an all-girls rock band.
One day, the lead singer asked her for a ride to an audition. As she waited, Duckett got chatting with members of the band and hit it off with them. They invited her back for her own audition and the next thing she knew, she was drummer and back-up singer for the Howe Sound Band. It was a gig that took her up and down the coast, performing at all hours aboard cruise ships — where rocking and rolling was sometimes more about the stage than the music — and gave her the chance to play at Expo ’86.
Since those days, Duckett has worked as a studio musician and continues to offer private drum lessons.
“I’ve probably had over 100 jobs,” she estimated.
As varied as those jobs were, something they all had in common was that they took place in a creative environment, she said.
About five years ago, Duckett, encouraged by her twin sister, took an on-call position with the Surrey school district, teaching special education.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, some of the most rewarding aspects of that job involved music.
“Whenever I went to a school, they’d ask, ‘Did you bring your drum, did you bring your guitar?’
“They loved it. We’d spend an hour (playing) and you should have seen the change in those kids.”
Students who are normally very quiet and shy will come out of their shells and join in with the class, she said.
“It’s rewarding for me. I’m happiest using music in the education spectrum.”
It’s that environment that Duckett is hoping to recapture when she introduces a series of drumming and music workshops inside her Fraser Highway studio.
The classes, which began on Monday and continue until March 28, are aimed at developmentally disabled teens and will teach participants about rhythm and playing together as a group, as well as helping develop both fine and gross motor skills.
The hour and 15 minute-long workshops will take place at 20550 Fraser Highway on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, starting at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Cost is $35 per session.
The building’s second storey is not wheelchair accessible, and Duckett plans to cap each session at 15 students.
Call 604-309-0356 to register or visit Duckett’s website at www.drumfootstudios.com for more information.