If it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill, then 18-year-old drummer Kelvin Broadnax is well on his way. But some of his teachers might wish he'd ease up a bit.
"When I wake up, I do my double-strokes. And when I go to bed, I might do a couple of triplets and double-strokes on my pillow until my wrists hurt," says the senior at White Station High School. "At school I break out my sticks when we're not doing anything in class and beat on my leg and get on people's nerves. They don't understand that I have to get better. I can't tell you how many times I got in trouble in school for beatin' on stuff or how many times I have had my sticks taken up."
Broadnax, known as "TK" to his friends and teachers, is also a fourth-year student at the Stax Music Academy's after-school program and a member of the drum line. He and his classmates will perform with professional jazz musicians Kirk Whalum and Cyrus Chestnut in the "SOULed on Jazz" concert at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre Saturday night. The drum line's entrance to a crescendo of bass drums, snares, and cymbals is one of the highlights of the spring concert for both students and audience.
The Stax after-school program, called SNAP!, mentors students primarily from the Soulsville neighborhood near LeMoyne-Owen College through music education. Instructors include artist-in-residence Whalum and other professional musicians. Every graduate of the program this year is headed for college.
Not all of the students aspire to become full-time musicians, but the program emphasizes the daily "purposeful practice" that has been popularized in recent books such as Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and Geoff Colvin's Talent Is Overrated. One of their tenets is that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice, or three to five hours a day for at least 10 years, to master any skill, from playing the sax like Whalum to swinging a golf club like Tiger Woods or hitting a tennis ball like Venus Williams.
Broadnax, who is headed to Tennessee State University in Nashville or Jackson State University in Mississippi, wants to go to seminary eventually. He got his license to preach in April.
"God called me," he says. "It wasn't like He whispered in my ear. It was a feeling that I always knew I wanted to do it, but I was too afraid. I had just turned 18, just got my driver's license, just able to go out with my friends and go to clubs and have fun. Now you want me to be a pastor, and I got to turn into a 40-year-old man?"
The "SOULed on Jazz" concert will feature songs by the Isley Brothers, Chaka Khan, and Duke Ellington, among others.
Ricardo Canady, a senior at Central High School who hopes to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston, has gotten a chance to play saxophone with Whalum, his idol, in live performances.
"Stax has made me come out of my shell," says Canady, who was born in South Africa. "When I came here, I was really shy. I'm more friendly and outgoing, and I get along with people."
"Shy" is only a problem for Broadnax if someone calls his name when the drum line is performing. "Being a section leader, you have to let other people shine," he says.
When the crowd gets into it, watch out.
"That gets us hyped, so we just kill it. We're the best group out there. They can't stop us."