Bits 'n' Pieces: Band bangs the drum for first CD

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Nothing's more universal than the urge to bang a drum. And in Vancouver, nearly 500 youngsters have benefited from banging away in the One of A Kind Drumline.

The character-building drum corps has performed for an estimated million-or-more people over the past decade, but Drumline organizer Edward Esparza realized recently his kids were missing an essential part of what it is to be a working musician: recording an album.

So the evolving group got to work and is now beating the drums for its first CD. There is a free concert tonight from 8 to 9:15 p.m. at Fort Vancouver High School, 5700 E. 18th St.

Esparza said his ears are still ringing from the recording session, which ran the gamut from percussion accompaniment for some of his professional musician friends, to massive assaults on the skins by a dozen energetic youngsters pounding away at once.

"The kids showed a level of professionalism that I am really proud of," Esparza said. The CD and concert will feature those kids, grades three through 11, as well as the members of Esparza's own international-flavored rock band, No Passengers, with special guests on vocals and other instruments.

"Fortunately I am blessed with knowing a lot of great musicians. It worked out really well," said Esparza, who grew up in Camas and started tapping rhythms on a toy drum when he was 5 years old. It was love at first tap, he said. Esparza never took lessons, but teaching himself the drums "helped me deal with a lot of obstacles that came with growing up in poverty," he said. As he grew up, he realized that drums could provide the same positive focus and discipline for other kids whose lives were lacking. He started collecting used drums any way he could, and got a boost when King Elementary School became the home to his first army of young drummers.

That was in 2003. The One of A Kind Drumline has been bashing out its beats at festivals, street fairs, concerts and other outings all over the region ever since.

But here's a little secret: It's not really about drumming. The drums are a vehicle to growth and maturity. It's about "using the drums to reach your goals," Esparza said. That means academic success, social skills, leadership development -- and lifting up the whole community.

"Most of what we do isn't really drumming. It's community service," Esparza said.

While the CD release concert tonight is free, donations will be accepted.

"Art should be shared by everyone and not just those who can afford it," Esparza said. "So those that can make a donation can and those who cannot won't. And that's beautiful."-- Scott Hewitt

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.