Alongside his drumming partner, Harvey Thompson, Ralph and the BYOS movement is redefining 'marching drumming' to the world. With seemingly impossible stick flips and curves, watching them perform will leave you totally stunned.
A graduate of Broadcast Journalism from Hampton University, Ralph Nader started his drumming career at seven, and so far, the 26-year-old Brooklyn native has thrilled audiences around America and Europe.
Today is International Left-Handers Day and since drumming has to do with the use of the arms, I decided to have a stroll with Ralph to talk about drumming, his career so far, lefties, and much more. Here's my stroll with Ralph;
Ebenezar: Thanks for being my guest on the stroll today, Ralph.
Ralph: The pleasure is mine, Ebenezar!
Ebenezar: You started your drumming career quite early, I must say. As early as seven, you joined the Steppers Marching Band, and i'm just thinking, will you attribute what you've become today to that early start?
Ralph: I started performing as a marching percussionist at the age of seven with the Steppers Marching Band. Inside the band, the drumline later formed "Black Fire Percussion". While in Black Fire, I've been a part of the drumline for both the Knicks and Nets NBA teams until I graduated from High School and attended Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia.
I was on a music scholarship and also had the opportunity to march three years with the Concord Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps, (07, 08, 10). After two gold championships and a high drum title, I aged out and later moved to California to debut Disneyland's Soundsational Parade. I then created a performing arts and entertainment company, BYOS, and began promoting my craft and sharing music for people to enjoy and learn. As I currently work in California, I also travel the world and perform with Seed, a well known German reggae/pop band as a marching percussionist and dancer.
Ebenezar: That's really great; how much contribution did your parents make in helping you discover your talent for drumming? were they really supportive?
Ralph: Still to this day, my parents are extremely supportive of me and my endeavors. Since I was a toddler, I picked up my love of music from my father because he was a DJ and had me by his side all the time. I began banging on pots, pans and a baby drum kit until my mother introduced me to an after-school marching band (Steppers).
Ebenezar: (haha) Baby drum kit, that's cute. Now, the story takes a little twist at this point. You get to Hampton University and major in broadcast journalism and production? One will easily think you'd have done music, so what happened? Did it happen by choice or chance?
Ralph: It was by choice. As a young performer and entertainer, I was always curious to understand how everything worked and was being broadcasted, so I studied the ins and outs out journalism, marketing, advertising, editing, and production. I also took theatre classes because I enjoyed the feeling of performing on a stage.
Ebenezar: Okay, but you seem to have gone out of your way to study some theory music because I saw a video tutorial sometime, and you displayed a really rich music vocabulary... or have you had any formal theory music training?
Ralph: There was no theory music training for me. I first started learning by sight and then grew by learning something from everyone. My Instructor who was snare captain for 2000 Cadets, Tim Greene, broke down the theory to us at Black Fire and I learned a lot marching with the Blue Devils. I retain information, apply it to my playing and figured out the best way to explain it.
Ebenezar: Wow, that's really interesting. Can you tell us a bit about the Bring Your Own Style movement?
Ralph: BYOS is an arts and entertainment movement established for anyone with a love for their craft. It's a performing arts hub that motivates you to take your craft to the next level.
Ebenezar: Now, as an individual you've performed for a myriad of people. From Disney Land visitors to drum festivals. You seem to be among those leading this marching band revolution, where the marching drum has grown beyond the normal half time football match performance to the spotlight. What can you say about the future of the marching band?
Ralph: Marching band will always be marching band throughout the years. Not much of the activity will change, but some of the things in it will evolve. But that's life. It changes everyday. But that's what make BYOS versatile for every performance.
Ebenezar: Do you have plans of expanding the BYOS cypher to other continents beyond Europe and America? Perhaps Africa?
Ralph: The BYOS cypher is open to whomever is willing to participate. We try to encourage everyone to show the world their talents, skills, personality, and growth in their craft. We'll like to include more DJs, dancers, MCs, other instrumentalists on our future cyphers.
Ebenezar: So, today is World Left-Handers Day, and it is a day set aside to celebrate lefties and the sacrifice they make on a daily basis to survive in a world designed for right-handed people. Are you left-handed?
Ralph: I'm not left-handed but I do play traditional grip on the drum and that requires me to hold the stick in a more difficult way.
Ebenezar: Okay, from personal experience, I also know one challenge drummers face is how to balance the strength in both arms. Or rather how to make their weaker arm as strong as the other arm, I don't know if you get what I'm trying say...
Ralph: Yea, I do..
Ebenezar: Yeah, so the question is what exercises can a drummer undergo to increase the strength in both arms? Maybe not equal but almost balanced. Or is it not possible to do this?
Ralph: Something as simple as eight on the hand can help a lot. Legato and staccato strokes at different heights and including crescendo and decrescendos.
Ebenezar: Can you give us a sneak-peek into what your regular rehearsal routine is like? Sorry I'm asking you to share your secret with the world...
Ralph: I don't have a rehearsal routine. I usually just pick up the sticks and drum something that will feel good at the moment. I have a couple variations of basic warmups I randomly go through.
Ebenezar: Nice. So on a final note, What will you want the world to remember Ralph Nader for? You seem to have achieved a lot and it get's me thinking if actually there are still dreams you still want to see come through?
Ralph: Just being a cool guy that loved the Lord and made a change in the world. And I'm always dreaming so that list is limitless!
Ebenezar: That's really cool, bro. I particularly love the "Love the Lord" part. (hehe). it was great strolling with you, bro. All the best in your endeavors.
Ralph: (haha), thanks for having me.
This interview was first published on THE STROLL on 13th August 2014