Last Updated on September 5, 2022 by Jason Harris
From my earliest memories, I wanted to be a drummer. It was and is an intrinsic and fundamental expression of and part of me. I was so excited to get a drum set for Christmas when I was about 10 along with drum lessons from Lana Hawkari, the local band teacher’s spouse (and a phenomenal kick-ass drummer).
For whatever reasons, it was something I really seemed to excel at, which really helped my self-esteem at the time as I really struggled with basketball especially, the most prominent currency of young male social cohesion and bonding in the Mormon culture I grew up in.
I played and practiced drums regularly, eventually going to college on a music scholarship. I wanted to play professionally. And did gig a bit here and there to help pay some of the bills.
Then I served a mission for the LDS Church. And priorities changed. I continued to love drumming, but also decided it would be easier to be the sole-bread winner of our family (something our Mormon culture taught me I should strive to do if at all possible to be a righteous husband and father) with something other than professional drumming.
So I decided to become a doctor. Something I had literally sworn my entire life since boyhood I didn’t want to do given the time commitments involved… but also something I later felt drawn and called to as I opened my mind to the possibility of it in my early 20’s.
In 1999, I had been married for several months and was still drumming with college bands at the time. After all, it paid my tuition. I had come to view drumming (or any other interest or hobby I had) primarily through the lens of utility… would and could it provide for my family? Was it responsible?
Our college competed in the Lionel Hampton Jazz festival that year, where I was able to see many of the jazz greats such as Lionel Hampton, Christian McBride, Diana Krall, and many many more. It was a highlight of my life when I won the festival’s university level drum solo competition! I received a small plaque and a mahogany djembe as the prize!!
About two years later, one of our small children hit the djembe head with a metal bar and broke it. I didn’t replace it at the time… not having a clue how to get the goatskin needed to fix it or how to fix it.
So it sat next to my nightstand for 20 years. A constant reminder of my passion. The dreams of my youth… and the suspension of those dreams and desires for something I felt was greater.
The past few years, I’m increasingly realizing the importance of keeping some of these interests alive. Especially more recently.
I woke up a few weeks ago and realized it was time to fix the djembe. In fixing my djembe, it would be a symbol of reconnecting with my most fundamental being. The parts of me that existed from my earliest memories, before culture, society, etc. told me who and what I should be. What my responsibilities and duties were. And the childish things that should be “put away.”
So I looked up some youtube videos, ordered a goatskin from Africa, and replaced the head on my djembe. Nothing but the wood, hoops, ropes, etc. And a hide with hair. It took several days. A few hours here and there. But the entire process was incredibly healing and integrating to my soul and my psyche.
Truth is… if I could only own one drum, it would probably be a djembe. It has a range of bass to treble unlike any other percussion instrument, is quite portable, and is in the spirit of human bonding and cohesion woven into our DNA for thousands of years now!!
Looking forward to connecting more to my roots going forward. To more fully embracing and valuing who I am.
Jason Harris lived as an orthodox Mormon for forty years. He writes about his experiences leaving the Mormon Church and reconstructing a new World-View. He believes all religions and scripture are man-made, potentially helpful and harmful. He believes there is Divinity in all of them and everywhere.