Teacher and timekeeper

  • Breaking free: Drummer Troy Washington Sr in a recent practice session. The Massachusetts-born teacher and musician has lived in Bermuda since 2006 with his Bermudian wife and is making his name as both a performer and in the studio (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Breaking free: Drummer Troy Washington Sr in a recent practice session. The Massachusetts-born teacher and musician has lived in Bermuda since 2006 with his Bermudian wife and is making his name as both a performer and in the studio (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Drummer Troy Washington Sr auditioned to play at the 2017 America’s Cup thinking it might lead to fame and fortune. At the very least, he figured, it would be tons of fun. JESSIE MONIZ HARDY spoke with him about his experience

Troy Washington Sr joined 4-Forty-1 thinking it would offer the opportunity of a lifetime.

A year later, he’s not so sure.

The drummer counts working with Robert Edwards, the band’s musical director, as one of the highlights. He’s also thrilled that his children, Nijah, 18, Troy Jr, 10, and Taylor, 5, got to see him perform.

However, he found it tough to stick to the limited playlist the event’s organisers insisted on. Equally, he didn’t understand why guest DJs were given free rein to play whatever they wanted.

“It was confusing,” the 37-year-old said. “It wasn’t like we wanted to play inappropriate music. We easily had prepared over 200 songs but were only allowed to perform 25 to 30.

“I think opportunity was squandered. It could have been more than it was. I look back on it now as a missed opportunity. That put a cloud over us.

“After the America’s Cup, I just wanted to get back to playing the music I wanted to play.”

Mr Washington struggled to penetrate the local scene when he moved here from Boston in 2006 with his Bermudian wife Letitia. “There is only a small community of musicians here,” he said. “If you don’t know the big cats of the community, you’re not going to break into that circle.”

He found a niche playing in churches; before he knew it he’d been labelled a “church musician”.

“Sometimes I don’t think people here have a lot of respect for gospel artists,” he said. “You’re considered not as good as other musicians. But I can play everything. God didn’t give me this talent so I could only play one genre. I thought playing with the America’s Cup was my chance to break free and show people what I could do.”

He thinks it’s because he was part of 4-Forty-1 that he’s now getting more calls to play at private parties.

“I’m ‘the America’s Cup drummer’ in musicians’ eyes now when before, I was just the gospel drummer,” he said. “My name is speaking for itself now. It has gotten a little bigger after the America’s Cup. My face is more familiar from being on the stage.

“[Robert Edwards] brought a lot of energy to the band; the band experience itself was great. There were photo shoots and outfits for us, we were sponsored by certain people; opening night was dope. My children were there and got to see Daddy on stage. They’d seen me play before, but playing at the America’s Cup was a little different. I wanted them to see they could do anything they wanted to do. If Daddy can do it, they can do it too.”

It also raised his name in the gospel community. Singer Shannel Burrows came calling; Mr Washington is helping with her first album, At His Feet.

“She will be recording live at a hotel,” he said. “I’ll be playing alongside her. She did a single last year.”

The Sandys Secondary Middle School music teacher thinks playing with 4-Forty-1 also raised him a notch in his student’s eyes. “Probably 90 per cent of my students came to the America’s Cup to hear me play,” he said. “Their parents would contact me to say they would be coming to see me. Seeing me playing showed them that I had real-world experience, I knew what I was talking about.”

He grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts where his older brother inspired him to take up the drums. “My parents couldn’t afford to pay for drumming lessons or buy a drum set so Brian learnt by watching other people play in church,” Mr Washington said. “He had a natural gift from God. We’d put music books on the floor and look at them. We had makeshift drum sets.”

For him, however, music was a hobby. He was good at basketball and football and thought he’d become a physical education teacher.

“I didn’t get a scholarship to go that way though,” Mr Washington said. “I did get a scholarship from [Berklee College of Music] so I went where the money was at. My brother also got a scholarship and we were at Berklee together. You always have to have a grand Plan B and mine was to teach music.”

He married right out of college and moved to Bermuda. His first job was at CedarBridge Academy. “I’ve been teaching ever since,” he said.

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Published Jul 23, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 22, 2018 at 10:01 pm)

Teacher and timekeeper

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