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The Spirit That Moves Him

Tyler Thompson plays drums in the band at River Pointe Church. (Photo - River Pointe Church)

Tyler Thompson plays drums in the band at River Pointe Church. (Photo – River Pointe Church)

Tyler Thompson’s Musical Gift Takes Him To All-State Jazz Band

By Mara Soloway

When you meet Tyler Thompson, don’t tell him that he’s “such a good drummer for a young person.” He’s such a good drummer because he has already put in seven years of hard work with steady, almost daily practice since he was an 8-year-old drumming on pots and pans, a move that convinced his parents, Lana and Tommy Thompson of Sugar Land, that he had a gift they should nurture. At 15 years old, the freshman at Fort Bend Christian Academy (FBCA) recently earned a spot on the Texas Private School Music Educators Association (TPSMEA) All-State Jazz Band; TPSMEA ranks him as the second-best student drummer in Texas.

He and the other students selected for the jazz band will audition for chairs on Thursday, Jan. 25 in Richardson, Texas, rehearse until Saturday morning and then put on a concert Saturday evening. Tyler doesn’t see this as being in any way stressful; he thinks it will be fun. He earned the recognition of second place in the state on drums based on the audio recordings he created with the help of Aaron Perez, FBCA’s band director, who has known Tyler since 2013.

“Tyler sets himself apart from other musicians his age not only in his skill, but in his persistence and determination,” he said. “Tyler is always looking to make himself a better musician, not just a better drummer. He always seeks feedback from his mentors and peers on how he could better serve the music.”

Tyler will go to the TPSMEA event as a seasoned player. At FBCA, he plays under Perez’s direction with the symphonic band and the smaller chapel band that leads the school in a weekly worship service, which he enjoys being a part of.

Outside of school, he plays drums with three different church bands that range in size from around six to 15 people: Grand Parkway Baptist where his family worships, Houston’s First Baptist and River Pointe Church.

“I have at least one performance I play at every week, sometimes two or three, so I’m always practicing songs so I can get them down.” Based on what he is practicing for that week, his practice time can range from an hour up to three hours per day.

His main sources of inspiration come from contemporary Christian bands, especially Elevation Worship and Hillsong with their use of big drum sounds, and from his personal instructor, Isaias Gil, a professional drummer with whom he plays in the band at Houston’s First Baptist The Loop. Tyler also finds inspiration from country music, especially top Nashville studio drummer Paul Mayberry, with appreciation also for drummer Steve Jordan of John Mayer’s band. He sees his career being in Nashville as a studio drummer or touring with a band after college.

Tyler became proficient in jazz a few years ago when his grandparents introduced him to jazz drummer Buddy Rich. “I would watch videos of Buddy Rich and other jazz drummers and practice their style. I didn’t see it as a career so I focused more on music like country and Christian rock. But when the opportunity to play in a jazz band came up, I remembered all that I used to practice. I was ready,” he said.

Drum kits are played differently in different genres but Tyler thinks how musicians approach the music is what enables them to play more than one style like he can. “You have to have a different mindset. I like to think of other drummers who have a specific style, and I put my own twist on it with my fills and beats.”

When Tyler listens to music, he hears every aspect of the drumming. “I listen to every little detail, where they’re hitting it, how they’re hitting it.” He enjoys listening to and playing on different-sized drums kits tuned differently, with certain gear, for different songs and genres.

Many artists and musicians talk about being in “the zone” when they practice their art form. Tyler finds it is a way that God communicates with him. “The main reason I like those big worship songs is that my drumming flows out, and it’s really cool because I feel in contact with God. The talent comes from Him. It’s the best way I worship,” he said. “It’s just like me and him, and others are able to experience God’s presence through the music.”

In addition to Gil, Tyler works with other adult musicians he considers to be mentors. He credits Perez with helping him read music better and see how his individual part in the school’s symphonic band fits into the whole. But Perez also sees Tyler as a mentor to others. “Tyler does find ways to mentor younger percussionists and sometimes serves as a mentor to older percussionists as well. Even if it’s something as simple as fundamentals, Tyler will not only find a way to better himself but also better the students around him regardless of age,” he said.

Tyler also has learned a lot musically from Clyde Copeland and Lindsay Fralick, both of whom are on the staff of Grand Parkway Baptist Church, and Ryan Langford, worship leader at Houston’s First Baptist.

Another mentor is Chris Henderson, owner of Hendy Amps, with whom Tyler works setting the drum beats for Chris to use when demonstrating his amps.

Chris is also impressed with Tyler’s talent. “Ty is one of the most talented,genuine and hard-working drummers I have known. I work with labels,producers, musicians and artists all across the world for my business, and I cannot recall a single one that was as dedicated to, and advanced in, his or her craft,” he said.

“It will be shocking to me if Ty is not recognized as one of the top drummers in the United States within the next decade, and it couldn’t happen to a greater guy!”

Tyler Thompson, 15, is ranked among the top student drummers in Texas. (Photo - Mara Soloway)

Tyler Thompson, 15, is ranked among the top student drummers in Texas. (Photo – Mara Soloway)

The Spirit That Moves Him

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