By Jim Kipping
The art of storytelling is dying, which is sad for those of us in voice and creative. Without story, what is left? Just words. If you need proof, just listen to most creative copy being churned out in a number of broadcast stations or even ad agencies, just to get something on and fast. With today’s “GOT TO HAVE IT NOW” attitude, and get it in XXX characters, the story as we know it will no longer exist in the future. That’s why almost every day before I start writing, producing or voicing, I take a moment and write something in story form -- a goofy bit, a fictitious passage, or as in this case, a vivid memory. I will now always have this because it’s down in words. I get numerous request from clients all over the country to help tell the story both in copy and voiced form, because I try and keep the art of “the story” alive. This is my warm up for today.
Drummer Boy: I’m seven years old, at church with my family for Christmas eve mass on Army post at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Being winter, it’s dark and cold and there’s a light dusting of snow outside that crunches under my small feet as I carry my snare drum, stand and sticks with me into the chapel. I’m so nervous. The butterflies in my stomach feel like caged birds trying to escape, fluttering all the way up to the back of my throat. The Mass progresses in its regimented, structured path until the moment where I am asked to come out. It’s silent and I hear the noise my snare stand makes as I place it in the pre designated spot reserved for me. This is not what usually happens at this point in the service. Every eye is on me and I am terrified. The lights in the chapel are dimmed and only the flood lights shine on the altar, the congregation in a silhouetted grey. The smell the ceremonial incense coming from the coals in the thurible to the right of me as the mulling, sweet smoke licks though the tiny holes in the brass, filling the entire building with a type of foggy haze. I see my mom and dad their eyes are proud as if to nudge and reassure me that it’s ok. I’ll be fine. I in the middle of the alter, and Jim Reardon the leader of the folk group to the left of me, holding a well used six string Martin guitar. It was silent, with the only sound being the slight creaking, of people periodically shuffling in the dark wooden pews. He strums. His voice is powerful and piercing, as he belts out the first words, and I play my small snare drum in time with his voice. “Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum” I echo with the notes and sticking we practiced a few times before. I’m doing it! The feeling is amazing, exhilarating and scary. I remember seeing the look on mom and dad’s face, so happy. I remember hearing in my head my silent shouts, I’m actually doing this!! I played on…
The story above is what I remember my first ever public performance and I can hear, smell and visually see it in my head as if was yesterday. Although I do still own a drum set, my voice is my instrument these days. The microphone picks up every sound. Every emotion. Every feeling, and as Don Lafontaine told me in an interview I had with him via ISDN a year before he died, all make up what you sound like. I try to use my voice for good. In my daily writing, I try to paint a picture with descriptive words and sounds to convey emotion. I am here again, lucky enough to do what I love, warming up with a cup of coffee and a warm memory of the past. All the while knowing my mom is watching. Smiling. Doing my small part to keep the art of storytelling alive and to get clients results. And every day I give thanks for the opportunity. I am actually doing this!!