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He listens to the beat of his own drum

at the mixing board
at the mixing board
photo by Robin Wood

Ever since the age of one, when his enthusiastic drumming with spoons broke one of his mother’s plates, Andrew Clifford has been someone who crosses the boundaries of expectation. President and owner of Bangor’s Main Street Music Studios, Andrew loves music, lives music, but more than that, he aspires to carry central Maine across the threshold of a new musical movement.

“The movement” is a multi-faceted, dynamic integration of musical education, performance, and production in this age of digital media. After spending an hour with him in his studio, I am convinced that Andrew is the kind of inexhaustible young innovator that could make it happen.

As an entrenched member of the old pre-digital musical movement, I tried not to miss a beat with this professional drummer, teacher, engineer, producer, DJ, and…young father? Yes, that was one of the myriad stereotype-altering facts of Andrew’s life.

On the music stage, in his hip clothes and dark glasses, he gives off the aura of cool star appeal. Behind the dark glasses is a kind face, a highly approachable young man, a natural with children who flock to his studio for drum lessons.

Andrew’s music production room has a large fish tank, a sofa, two computer screens glowing with the “Green Tank Productions” logo, and a vast mixing board. When Andrew told me that his 3 ½ year old son often joins him at work, I remarked that it must be hard to keep him from pushing buttons and levers on the board.

“I want him to – I tell him to!” Andrew replied. Andrew is a firm believer in exposing children to the wonders of making music as early as possible. He is particularly excited about the parent/child music lessons offered by one of the studio’s teachers, and the fact that their music studio hosted a class trip from Camden-Rockport Middle School.

The son of a music teacher in Newport, Maine, Andrew grew up with instrumental students in and out of his house all the time. “I’d be in the living room, and a saxophone would go by.”

Though drumming was always his favorite, Andrew loved all aspects of music. After two years studying music education and performance at UMaine Augusta, he struck out on his own. In trips to New York City he learned more about the music business, taking chances, DJ’ing, drumming, and production. New York connections got him jobs for TV stations and well-known artists.

In today’s digital era, music producers “make beats” for artists and performers, who integrate them with their own sounds. With his MPC 4000 (“the first piece of equipment I saved up for,” he remembered with satisfaction) Andrew can layer multiple tracks of beats and electronic instrumental sounds.

“But I don’t like quantizing” (which makes rhythms perfectly uniform), he told me. There are producers that use drum machines exclusively. Andrew’s music always includes “organic musicians,” real artists performing on real instruments, in order to give the music a more natural feel.

I wondered if electronic musical production might make human musicians obsolete, but Andrew asserts that there is more need for live musicians today than ever. “If you want to have soul in the music,” he said, “you need real people.”

It is the soul both in the music and in the man that makes Andrew so appealing to real people, whether hip-hop artists in New York or 8 year old drumming students in Bangor, Maine. His is the soul of the musical movement that Andrew and his colleagues are so excited to push forward. I had to admire the work they have done, and said so on my way out.

“This is just the beginning,” he said.

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Robin Clifford Wood is a new columnist for the Bangor Daily News, where you may access her work both in the paper and on line. Her daily sunrise blog is called,"a year of getting up to meet the day." For comments or questions, you may contact Robin at: robin.everyday@gmail.com.

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