I’m pleased to share the following interview with Drummer and Entrepreneur, Mike Veny. Mike plays, teaches, speaks, sells and consults. He is on the Board of Directors for The Fender Music Foundation and is a member of the NAMM Foundation’s Support Music Coalition.
That Lazy River Feeling
LL: Mike, can you describe your passion for music? How it makes you feel?
MV: It depends on the day and moment. For me it’s more about what happens when I play. I lose track of time and it’s almost like I’m not playing the instrument. I’m in an inner tube floating down a river.
LL: When did you first get this feeling?
MV: I first detected the “lazy river feeling” when I was 15. Every time I played the drums, it was so comfortable – like wearing a comfortable pair of cotton pajamas or something. I just knew I had to keep that feeling of bliss in my life. My behavior was out of control as a child, and if I didn’t have drumming I would probably have a police record, that’s how much I needed it.
LL: So how did the bliss become a career?
MV: My parents supported my interest in music and understood what it meant to me. My mom found the Long Island School for Arts where my behavior changed dramatically. At age 17, I performed in a high school awards ceremony and there was a check waiting for me afterwards. I realized I could be a professional drummer at that point but my family wasn’t so sure. I come from a family of educators and people who had regular 9 to 5 jobs. Even though they were supportive, they couldn’t completely understand the idea of self-employment or a career as an artist. I had a bigger vision and realized at a young age that I had to become a successful entrepreneur in order to be a successful musician.
LL: Do you have a “day” job?
MV: Everyone asks that question. I say, “I’m a drummer.” And they say, “But what do you do for a living?” I’m a drummer. I’m booked up to a year and a half in advance with performances, recordings, and workshops. My biggest challenge is to do a better job at taking time off work. Some days, I work 12 hours. It’s not work, because I love it.
Parent’s Support Was Huge
LL: Mike, tell us more about your parents and how they supported your creativity.
MV: My parents did a few things that seemed insignificant at the time, but turned out to be critical to the success of my career: They put me in the basement to practice drums, but they were really firm about having me stop drumming at 9:00 p.m. It didn’t matter what day of the week it was – I had to stop at 9. My mom would be in bed at that time, reading or watching TV and she would always comment on what she heard me playing. She might say, “I’ve heard you practicing that one beat and it is really starting to sound better.” Having that interest and encouragement from someone so close to me was huge!
My parents also showed up at every performance they could. Then, when I turned 18 and went to college, my parents said they didn’t feel they needed to attend every single one my performances anymore. I understand their perspective…my gigs aren’t their top priority. However, I missed it – and I got a little depressed.
I realize now that not everyone gets to experience applause in their life. They might get support, but to have someone there to be a fan for you is really important for self-esteem.
LL: You’ve taught private drum lessons to children. What have you observed about parenting and music?
MV: I’ve noticed one trend in families of well-rounded kids. In their homes, there is less TV and an extraordinary amount of music being played. Kids in these homes just blossom!
Probably the biggest issue for parents is getting their kids to practice. The interesting thing I’ve observed about practice is that parents who are disciplined in their own lives have kids who are disciplined. Behavior in the parents and the kids is similar.
LL: You are a board member of The Fender Music Foundation, why is it important to give back? (Note: The Fender Music Foundation was created to provide funding and resources for music programs across the United States so that kids and adults alike will have an opportunity to experience the joys of music.)
MV: After working in the business for quite a few years, I began to feel that it was important to cultivate giving in my life. I had been so focused on “getting” that it was time to start thinking outside myself. I started giving to the Guitar Center Music Foundation, which soon became The Fender Music Foundation. I was invited to join the board and actively participate on the Development Committee. I’m fortunate because I am on a team of incredibly talented and dedicated people. I love the feeling of knowing that a project we’re working on will bring music into someone’s life. It might even introduce music to someone whose never experienced it before. That is so powerful.