Travis Orbin - Brief "Musical" Autobiography

Originally posted on MySpace on August 18th, 2006

     Greetings, everyone! My name is Travis Stephen Dominic Orbin. I was born three days before Christmas, in the year 1982. I am a musician. My primary instrument is the drum set. I was in synchronization with the pulse of music before I was even physically born. My mother went to a loud concert with my father when I was still a fetus. At this concert she began to feel me kick, but to the beat of the music that was being performed onstage. Wacky stuff, eh?

     Shortly thereafter, I was born. I started elementary school a year early. I would beat on my desk with my little hands, playing simple beats and rhythms and consequently upsetting teachers throughout the land. I did not experience a "musical upbringing." Music was not commonly played in our household, and no one in my family actively played any instruments. The closest I came to any sort of musical upbringing was absorbing the compact, syrupy sounds of Motown and Patsy Cline as played by my mother on occasion and riding around in my father's humongous truck whilst listening to Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Rush, and others. On one notable outing, he turned Rush up as loud as the vehicle's stereo would allow, bellowing such an inquiry: "YA HEAR THAT?!" "THAT'S THREE GUYS PLAYIN'! THAT'S IT!!" he shouted, as our ear drums endured the madness. I vividly remember adoring Metallica, which began after viewing the debut of the "Enter Sandman" video. But it was my purchase of ...And Justice For All that completely floored me, and had me mimicking the motions of a drum set player (also less elegantly referred to as "air drumming") for the first time. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was certainly enjoying myself. I also listened to a ton of pop and dance music.

     This is somewhat of an estimate, but around eleven years of age my father purchased for me one of those really cheap practice pads; the kind where a small, square piece of gum rubber is shoddily affixed to cheap, angled wood by bottom-of-the-line adhesive. Along with this wonderful practice pad he got me a pair of Vic Firth sticks that were quite thick. This seemingly came out of nowhere, but now that I think about it, I suppose he finally noticed just how much drumming allured me. I asked no questions and went to town on that thing. I also played on pillows frequently, and I continued to play with my bare hands (for some reason, I preferred to play on a 'DOOM II' strategy guide for which I cannot explain why). After much pleading with my parents for a full-fledged drum kit, they purchased me an inexpensive, lame Yamaha synthesizer kit. If I recall correctly, the pads were plastic and the polyphony count was just horrid. I'd execute a roll with a moderately fast note value and hear only about half of what I played (jumbled at that) during playback in the headphones. This was far from a deterrent though, as I put hours into my little electronic kit.

     In 1995, for my birthday and Christmas gift (I had just turned thirteen), I was given a Pearl Export drum kit in piano black with two Zildjian Amir cymbals (fourteen inch hi-hats and an eighteen inch crash-ride), a Pearl single bass pedal, and a cooler as a throne. I didn't shower for a week. I practiced my tail off, playing along to the radio and to records, and generally experimenting. I taught myself for a year. I began ogling musical instrument catalogs. I was brimming with passion and I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Once my parents realized that this was not a "phase that kids go through," for next year's Christmas I was given my first pair of double bass pedals and private lessons with a fellow named Honey Voshell. It was very helpful and enlightening to be taught such highly important fundamentals and for my practice time to possess some sort of structure. I feel that all musicians should have a basic knowledge of their respective axe/craft: scales, chords, rudiments, treble and bass cleff, modes, rhythm theory, etc. I feel that such a knowledge will inspire, discipline, motivate and humble you... along with increasing your chances of securing gigs! I would not be where I am at without Honey's direction early on, and I thank him dearly for it.

     The next few years were spent developing my overall skill on the drum kit, my appreciation of a hugely disparate variety of music (kudos to Modern Drummer for turning me on to so much great music and so many incredible drummers), and getting out of the practice space. I played quite a few open mic nights in the area and began jamming with basically anyone who wanted to jam with me. I played my first professional gig when I was still in high school but as a latin percussionist. I co-founded my first 'authentic' band shortly after graduating high school and have been in many since; even a church's youth group for over a year.

     To this day, I have played well over two hundred gigs, have participated in many recording sessions with both my personal bands/projects and as a hired gun, have been featured in Drum! Magazine's "New Blood" section, have been filmed and interviewed for a feature on educational access, have played in two local drum clinics, have been featured in the local newspaper (the band I was with at the time acquired a place to book bands and put on shows), have taken private lessons with both "Tiger" Bill Meligari and Mike Mangini, have worked my way through over sixty instructional drum set books (both classic and obscure titles), and have maintained a rigorous, evolving practice schedule for years. I enjoy notating/transcribing my own creations, and have filled three notebooks with grooves, patterns, exercises, etc. It's very beneficial to keep a pencil and paper by your side; don't let those ideas escape you! In November of 2003, I took up the electric bass guitar, and thoroughly savor it. I studied bass theory with my instructor for some time. Despite my passion for bass, I always tell folks that I am a drummer and I also play bass, but I am NOT a bassist. I have put in far too much work on the drum set and am cognizant of what it takes to arrive at an adequately commendable/professional level. I also highly enjoy composing music with a program called Guitar Pro, attempt to sing (mostly in my car, don't worry!), and would like to learn how to play even more instruments in the future. Finally, I teach drum set professionally for supplemental income and an altogether rewarding experience. I've been at it for many years and have taught a variety of students, from a six-year-old girl to a middle-aged man and even a disabled child. I love teaching and have a nation-wide roster of students.

     My ultimate goal in life is to make a living solely off of playing music and expressing myself. Whether my path leads to me playing in a successful band, becoming a renowned sideman/session musician or any of the myriad of jobs available in the music industry, I am ready to set my feet on solid ground. A little dream I've always had is to mature into a "name player" and become a commodity in the drumming community. I feel that I am developing an identity on the drum kit and will continue to evolve, possessing ideas and concepts that could potentially inspire musicians and, in turn, society. I am certainly in no position to ultimately define art and its meaning, but I've always felt its role is to alter one's perception and -- ideally -- to inspire. To elucidate, I mean to see life through another's eyes. "Is this what a rock song is supposed to sound like?" "What a neat painting, but I've never thought a person's face could be arranged in such a way!" To accrue such responses is to alter one's perception. This is to leave your mark on society, or to leave behind a sort of legacy. Although this does not concern me, my favorite artists have left indelible marks on society by not compromising their values and possessing and promoting tremendous substance in their work; such standards inspire and drive me. I am overwhelmed and oftentimes even confounded by the possibilities of music and the more experience and education I garner, the more it continues to. I feel like closing with some quotes that I dig:

"Music is an abstract work of fiction. Art is an exercise in fantasy. It is the nature of our consciousness. It is an imaginary construct, projected into the mind of a hallucinating caveman. We think we are hearing it, but all we are really hearing is our own mind thinking about what it hears." --Sir Millard Mulch/Dr. Zoltan

"Keep your blood clean, your body lean and your mind sharp." --Henry Rollins

"I grew up being influenced by music of all genres. Rock, mainstream jazz, jazz-fusion, progressive rock, alternative. I genuinely loved it all, and I genuinely wanted to play it all. Why not? There is pleasure to be derived from just playing strong, solid time, and also from stretching out a little. Of course, you can run into objections from both sides of the coin - the "jazz police" and the "feel gods." But that's not important. What's important to me is fulfilling my own goals and desires, constantly challenging myself, and giving some meaning to my existence. Drumming gives my life order; it feeds and nourishes me. It's always there when all else fails. I do what I do based upon the boundless inner energy I gain from my connection with the world of drumming." --Virgil Donati

"To me, music is a language." --Victor Wooten

"If you truly do what you want to do, don't expect a placid lake to paddle across." --Henry Rollins

"I think the important thing is to remember what you get into music for. It isn't to become famous, it's not to believe in a dream. Don't buy the dream, when you see rock stars. The dream is this: the dream is that you play your butt off, and that you experience music. And by doing that, you get something that a non-musician--or what I'd like to call a civilian--doesn't ever get to experience. That's why we do it and that's why you should do it, so keep your eye on that ball, and stay creative and be yourself." --Billy Ward

"Everybody I showed it to said it was terrible. I was urged to give up the idea of writing. I had to learn, as Balzac did, that one must write volumes before signing one's own name. I had to learn, as I soon did, that one must give up everything and not do anything else but write, that one must write and write and write, even if everybody in the world advises against it, even if nobody believes in you. Perhaps one does it just because nobody believes; perhaps the real secret lies in making people believe. That the book was inadequate, faulty, bad, terrible, as they said, was only natural. I was attempting at the start what a man of genius would have undertaken only at the end. I wanted to say the last word at the beginning. It was absurd and pathetic. It was a crushing defeat, but it put iron in my backbone and sulphur in my blood. I knew at least what it was to fail. I knew what it was to attempt something big. Today, when I think of the circumstances under which I wrote that book, when I think of the overwhelming material which I tried to put into form, I pat myself on the back, I give myself a double A. I am proud of the fact that I made such a miserable failure of it; had I succeeded I would have been a monster." --Henry Miller, Tropic Of Capricorn

Thank you for your time. AIM--tre0drums

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