February 26, 2010

Your thoughts go back to the beginning: how you met, the project’s evolution, decisions made along the way in what has now been a 16 month process – a fact causing you to sometimes shake your head in near disbelief.

The initial goal was and still is to make great music together. As is often the case over time, camaraderie is formed. In addition to learning and performing music, you laugh, share past experiences, socialize outside of “band stuff” and ultimately, form friendships that appear as binding as family.

If you’re lucky, all of this cements the group in a fashion similar to any healthy relationship. There’s understanding, compromise, caring, open communication and most importantly, respect. Some who are close to the group often don’t understand the bond. Short of a clear explanation, you simply state, “It just is.”

But now, you’re at a crossroads. Neither direction is easy. As you survey the thoughts of other members, you realize you’re not alone. There is concern, angst, caring and kindness all present in this heart wrenching, but all-to-common situation.

You have to replace him.

He’s done nothing wrong. Most bands would be thrilled to have his easy-going manner, professional attitude, punctuality, kindness of heart and giving spirit.

Most bands.

But yours is an evolving project. The material is becoming more challenging – the result of a consensus decision. The desire to move in this direction also challenges the skill level of each member. All have every intention and the ability to meet the challenge – except one.

“His heart’s in the right place,” you tell yourself, so you keep working with him. “He’s the one that started the band,” you remember, as you witness endless struggle with some musical passages. You begin to ask yourself, “Has he got the chops?”

Then comes the defining moment.

Rehearsing one four beat measure for over an hour, in a span of three different rehearsals, he continues to deny what everyone else knows: he’s not able to learn material of this caliber. He becomes defensive, challenging the other band members, rather than himself. Adding insult to injury, this was the night he invited a co-worker/friend/musician to observe what would ultimately be his last rehearsal with the the rest of you. Fortunately, because of the quality of the band’s character, and his in particular, only frustration – not anger – sets in.

There is the pending disappointment that comes as the night progresses. By the end of rehearsal, the inevitability of the next step is clear.

For the next couple of days, e-mails go back and forth among the rest of you, expressing sorrow and churn for the upcoming conversation. Then, suddenly, there are none. No more funny e-mails. No more links to cool tunes on YouTube. There’s nothing more to say.

It’s now three days away, then two, then one.

Everyone arrives early. There’s a quiet anxiety permeating the room in anticipation of his arrival. The suggestion is made to sit at the kitchen table. You start off, quietly and calmly, expressing your concerns over the last rehearsal, then move into why you feel the best for all is to move forward with someone else. Again, because of his character, he too is calm and understanding, seeming almost relieved. After you finish, the rest of the members express their concerns, in much the same manner.

Then, it’s over.

After packing his gear, he shakes hands with everyone and exits.

“I can’t believe how well that went. He was so good about it.”

“It’s as if he sensed it was coming – almost like he wanted out.”

Maybe, he did.




  1. […] On February 11th, our band, Powerline, had “the conversation” with our original drummer. (See Letting Go.) […]

  2. Wow nothing like getting fired and having it published on the web. Somehow I get the feeling that you smiled at the ending of Old Yellow. Knowing some of the parties involved and the direction you wanted to go, I find it hard to believe that it took you 16 months to come to that discovery. You probally will not take this kindy but after reading some of your other post, there are lots of good musicians in the central ohio area. But not all want to be a note for note cover band. Your band is very good but I see no expresion of peronal talent, if I wanted to hear a song note for note I would put the CD in. Some people like to express themselves when they play and add a little of there own style. Playing songs by the tabs may work for Kenny but not for everyone.

  3. Hello “Keys”,

    I’d like to first thank you for responding. It’s good to read others’ opinions. Secondly, I would like to respond to your statements.

    Just to be clear. The drummer knew he couldn’t keep up. He has never played music at a high level before rehearsing with this band. When the decision was made to go in this musical direction, and because he was a founding member, we alloted him many months of opportunity to grow in his role, but he just didn’t have the desire to increase his skills to that level. That said, you couldn’t ask for a better person to work with. BTW – he was not all upset about this post.

    Kenny enjoys working with tab which is fine by the rest of us. He has the skill and the desire to “get it right.” Paul, our other guitarist, who is equally skiiled, plays by ear for the most part, but still uses tab when the part is not audibly clear. I personally have played by ear since I quit my formal training on piano, many years ago. Both Tom (bass)and Steve (drums) play by ear as well.

    As for learning tunes “note-for-note”: I believe there are basically two reasons why most musicians don’t like to do difficult cover songs accurately. (1) They don’t want to spend that much time learning other peoples’ riffs (which, truth-be-known, would make them better musicians), or; (2) They don’t have the talent to perform at that level.

    The dedication, time, humility and skill it takes to perform tough cover material is not often seen in many local bands. We auditioned many, many people only to find that nearly all weren’t up to the task – hence the year and a half it took to finally go live. (Those that are up to the task, are already in good bands.)

    If you want to truly express yourself through your music – write, record and perform original material. I’ve done so with great success and have also worked some other excellent singer/songwriters. I have to say there’s no better feeling in the world than getting a great response from a live audience for an original tune. I continue to work with up-and-coming songwriters in my studio: http://www.StudioArtistsProductions.com.

    POWERLINE is dedicated to honoring those bands that created, recorded and performed great music at a high level and achieved success accordingly. It doesn’t get any better than Yes, Rush, Journey, Styx, Foreigner, Kansas and other similar groups when it comes to top-notch writing, production and performance. The fact that all of them are still gigging to sold-out crowds is a testament to their talent and contribution.

    Enough said.

    Thanks again.


    Michael Kontras

    PS – Are you in Columbus? Are you currently performing? If so, where? If you would rather not respond here, feel free to send me an e-mail through my website: http://www.MichaelKontras.com, or the band’s website: http://www.PowerlineBand.com. I enjoy listening to other local talent.

  4. Michael, My appologies. In looking back at my post I spoke without knowing all the facts concerning the letting go of Ron. I must compliment you on the fact that not only are you a very talented keyboard player but also express yourself very well in your thoughts and writting. And I urge music fans who have not heard your band to get out and hear you live. Although we may differ in the type of music we like to preform and listen to, hats off to the excellent lineup you have put together. I can only think of a handfull of bands that would play Head East’s Never Been any Reason. I will say your version of it is the best that I have heard barring the original. These comments are not comming from a novice as I have also played for over 40 years. I wish I could still play but RA in my hands have caused me to limit my playing. Once agin I appolgize and commend you and your band. In closing I offer a peace branch.
    PS. Have you ever considered politics LOL Best of luck and I wil send you an e-mail with some leads on places and events where your band would be appreciated.


    • Hello again, “Keys”,

      Peace Branch wholeheartedly accepted.

      You have our website information so please feel free to attend one of our shows. I always enjoy putting a face to the name.

      Michael Kontras

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