I nervously practice counting the mixed 4/4 to 7/8 beats of The Ocean as I fill out the form. I didn't get to practice any of this, because I don't have a drum set. My audition form is clever. I guess improv pays off in ways you wouldn't expect.
The first drummer goes in. I listen to him warm up. He's obviously really good. He shows off for a little while before starting the first song, and I'm blown away. He starts playing The Ocean. It sounds really good. He does a fill, and miscounts. The extra beat throws the time off, and the music falls apart for a second, before regrouping and coming back strong.
Is it bad that I smile when he miscounts? I glance toward the door, and another drummer comes in. All it's going to take is one really good guy walking in here, and I don't have a chance anymore.
The guy misses the tempo change in The Ocean. Another cruel smile to myself. Then the band begins playing Aeroplane. It sounds really good. Like, really really good. The bass vibrates my very soul as I desperately hope that my drumming doesn't sound childish compared to this guy.
The quiet part of the song comes, but he doesn't change his drum part at all. Another small, conflicted victory for me.
He leaves, and the next drummer goes in. He also misses the tempo change in The Ocean. He chooses to play The Impression That I Get. After a couple of measures he opts to play half notes instead of quarter notes for the rest of the song.
Suddenly it's my turn. I walk in in a surreal state of mind. I see the drum set. Wow. Wow. That is a really nice drum set. I want to play it.
I sit down at the set, fiddling around and adjusting the high hat as the singer reads my audition form aloud and pokes fun at me. I really like these people. These people are cool. I want to be in this band.
I warm up, and am surprised and delighted to find that my warming up and showing off sounds just as impressive as that first guy's did. We start The Ocean.
As soon as I start playing, the nervousness melts away. I'm ready for this. I can't help but add some extra light snare hits; I hope they don't mind. That's kind of my style, anyway, so there's no use trying to hide it now.
The drums and guitar stop for a moment for a vocal break. I join in singing with the guitarist and bassist. I see the guitarist flash a grin my way. Okay, drums back in now. Two more measures. One more measure. Aaaaaaand tempo change. Bam. I pride myself on being the first one to get it right. And then the song is over. No mistakes.
They ask me which song I want to play next. I honestly don't know what my answer is going to be.
"The Impression That I Get," I say.
Okay, I guess I'm playing that one.
I hate the way the drums come in in this song. I'm going to mess this up, I know it.
I don't mess it up. I'm happy to learn that the song is not as fast as I had worried. I won't have to switch to half notes like the other guy. I throw in a measure of sixteenth notes, just for fun. Chorus. My right arm is getting tired. I sing along loudly to distract myself. They'll probably appreciate that, right? We're all having fun.
Aw shit, I missed the quiet part, didn't I? Just fifteen minutes ago I was heckling the first guy for missing the quiet part in Aeroplane. I should have practiced this song more; I thought it would be straightforward. Oh, wait, we're definitely at the end of this song. I should be varying up my part a little. Is it too late now? I think it might be too late now. I'm gonna tough it out.
And just like that, it's over. I really want to play more drums. I reluctantly put down the sticks. I thank them, and make pleasant conversation. I really like these guys. I make eye contact with the bassist as I leave the room, and we smile at each other.
Damn, I feel really good about that. I haven't been this sweaty in like a week. Also, I forgot my glasses. I turn around and awkwardly go back into the room before the next drummer starts his first song.
I go home and shower. I set my phone to super loud, in case they call. I go to sleep really early. I check my email obsessively for the next two days, until the hammer falls. "We hope you audition again in the future... appreciate your enthusiasm in the band..." Ect ect.
. . .
Fast forward a week. I'm sitting in Gregory Hall, and I've been here for the last five hours watching improv auditions. It's judgement time. We've seen everyone, and there are nine slots available. With every name crossed off the board, I'm hearing their soul cry out in disappointment. These were good improvisors. Maybe they were having an off day. Maybe they were super hopeful that they would make it.
I'm so happy with the team that was picked. And yet, every time I think of the thirty people that didn't get picked, I'm back in last week, obsessively checking my email, waiting for the hammer to fall.