When I became a student at City Tech, I met a lot of new people who would ask me about myself. They asked many questions as part of the process of getting to know me, but the first question was usually, “What’s your name?” That one was the easiest to answer: Arjoon Hansraj. Other questions, however, were more challenging to come up with a satisfying answer. One such question was, “What makes you, you?” With some thought I said with one simple word, Drumming. Playing the drums has undoubtedly made me into the person I am today. It defines who I am, because it reminds me of where I came from, teaches me discipline, sparks my sense of innovation, creates a competitive mindset within me and shows me how to help others. Without these important traits, which I gained and continue to gain through drumming, I would not be the person I am today.
Drumming constantly reminds me of my humble beginnings and the struggles my ancestors overcame. Originally from a small, overlooked island at the southernmost tip of the West Indies, my ancestors came from India to work in sugar plantations for the British government in their new home as indentured servants. The British Government and its business representatives did not honor many of the agreements with my ancestors and they outlawed many of our practices from our Indian homeland. In the small shacks where they lived, they practiced their culture in secret in order to keep it alive, and they risked everything to pass it from one generation to the next until they eventually won their independence. I think of these things often, especially when I go out to play the drums for work or religious practice. When I was younger, I wondered why the elders would be so happy to see a young boy like me playing the drums, but after having learned the history of my ancestors’ struggles, I now understand. They are joyous to see their culture alive and thriving among the younger generations, because when many of them were my age, their parents had to practice and teach the culture of our homeland in secret. As a young drummer, I take pride in my talent and am ready to vindicate my ancestors’ struggles by being successful and embracing my culture through drumming.
In addition to the importance of drumming to my cultural heritage, learning and practicing the drums instills a level of discipline within me that I can transfer to any task I wish to accomplish. When I started to learn to play the drums I was frustrated easily because I had to sit for hours on end doing one boring task after the other with none of it seeming to be related to playing correctly. I began to get frustrated to the point where I would complain all the time to my father that I wasn’t learning anything and I was just wasting my time. However, my mind and attitude began to change as I progressed through my lessons and began to realize the method to the madness. I began to understand why I had to do those boring tasks and the role it played in me becoming a professional drummer. Taking this understanding further I was able to teach myself many other instruments off of online tips alone. I learned to play the guitar by just practicing scales for hours and hours on end. I learned the piano by scales and tips from friends. Because of the discipline instilled by learning drum I now understand what it takes to be at an exceptional level of anything. I know that to be great at something you must understand it at its most basic “black and white” fully before you take it further. The discipline instilled in me from learning to play drum has made me into the calm and collected person I am today
As part of learning to play the drums, I was taught the importance of maintaining the drum but also new ways to improve upon the original design to make it more suitable for myself as well as someone else. This has made me into an innovative person, always viewing the world from the point of view of making things better by improving upon it. For example with drumming, the original way to make one of the drums is to use an animal skin and rope with a clay pot, and to tune it you needed to heat it first with an open fire. This design works out great in the islands however, does not work so well in America where the laws are stricter as well as the weather different. To make life easier and to aid in bringing the full extent of our culture to America we had to innovate and experiment until we made the design that we have today. Instead of the clay shell we use half a propane tank, instead of the animal skin we use the plastic snare drum skin and instead of rope we use nuts and bolts. This base design has held over the years but is still being changed slightly by every drummer. I share that same way of thinking when it comes to everything I encounter. For example, as a junior in high school, I made a simple heat engine with an incandescent light bulb, a bicycle rim, and rubber bands. It worked by having the rim suspended and when the rubber was heated it expands and turns the wheel. Seeing that the design was not using most of the heat produced by the bulb I changed the design and added a piston made from a paint can and a rod I spot welded on to the lid. I also replaced the light bulb with a small food heater placed under the paint can which was filled with water and holes drilled almost at the top. This caused the water to boil which made steam which then pushed the lid up and by extension the wheel that was attached to the can by a rod. By innovating the design of the heat engine I was able to create something that was more energy efficient and proved to be stronger than the original. This innovative attitude that I have developed from being a drummer is one that I can bring to my career and use it to my advantage. Thanks to drumming I am able to view the world in a different light and have the drive to innovate as much of the known world as possible to make it an overall better place to live and hopefully rid it of anymore pollution.
While practice, discipline, and maintenance are primarily solitary activities, drumming also developed my competitive mind set. As a professional drummer, you meet others who share in your passion but are also your business rivals. You must prove yourself a better musician in order to be hired and to make money. This competitive spirit learned from drumming is one I can use to make myself somebody notable in this world. When I first started drumming our group was already established as one of the best and therefore I had to fill some very big shoes. To add to that pressure, there are a lot of other upcoming groups that have the drive to be the best. This meant I not only had to play well at private gigs but also to hold my own on stage so that our reputation would not diminish. Starting from nothing and coming so far I know firsthand what it takes to be the best at something and it’s an attitude that I plan to carry with me to all aspects of my life, both public and personal. The competitive spirit means you strive to be the best no matter what and that is what I truly seek to do and who I truly am at the innermost. I strive to be at the top, to be the one peoples greatness is measured by. If it wasn’t for drumming I would have never had this mindset and I would have not accomplished the things I have so far in my life.
In addition to competing with others, you learn from those you compete with in drumming. Learning from everyone and taking bits and pieces of everyone’s style you begin to develop your own. However, when you first start learning the basics you must find a way to break down each of the parts of playing drum so that you can understand it as well as memorize it. This inadvertently leads to you becoming a good teacher, because you can relay your own tricks and methods on to your students in order to help them. This is why drumming has helped me be able to help others. When encountering a problem, I break it down into small parts that I can asses individually which in the long run helps me solve the bigger problem. I developed this way of thinking due to drumming. When learning new beats that your hands aren’t accustomed to, you struggle a lot and become frustrated easily. By breaking each part down you can train yourself piece by piece until you can play the entire beat. This same mentality can be applied to your job, career and even your life as a whole. being a drummer has made me into a problem solver but also into a teacher. Since I understand the way I think and asses situations, I can pass that knowledge onto someone else so that they wouldn’t have to struggle as much as I did and can understand things easier. Because of drumming I have developed the problem solver mind which is key to being an engineer but also a teacher mind which is also helpful when you have reached a senior level position and have to train new workers. If drumming was not a part of my life I would not have developed this mindset nor would I be able to have any idea as to how to help someone.
Without drumming in my life, I would be a different person who does not think or act the way that I do now. I owe my life to drumming, because without it I would never have been as successful as I am now. Some of these success would include attending college, another is actually studying and focusing on school, instead of being a “B” student now I strive to be an “A” student. Another of my successes include disciplining myself to stick to a schedule in order to always be ready for school as opposed to how I was in my past years. Drumming has provided me with almost all of the ideal mindsets that are conducive to a healthy career. From staying humble to helping others drumming has paved the way for a bright future ahead of me. The only thing left now is to make sure I use all the lessons I learnt from playing drum in my everyday life and continue to strive forward no matter what. All I ever need in my life is there for me to take and thanks to drumming I now have the tools and experience needed to take what is mine.