Motorcycle accident won’t deter Jeff Sanders from drumming up his passion
By Ashton Graham
PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. - Central Arizona College's entertainment industry technology program has given student Jeff Sanders a chance to express his talents and inspire his audiences.
Sanders began playing drums at the age of 7, and by the age of 8 he owned his first kit, but his mother claims he was banging on things well before that. By the time Sanders was in high school, he joined a local rock band called Ash.
"Drums are the only thing I ever devoted myself to," Sanders said. "They are the most powerful and understandable form of expression I've ever felt, even as a child."
In August of 1992, a motorcycle accident left Sanders a C5 quadriplegic, but that did not stop him from continuing his passion of playing the drums.
"My hands are paralyzed and numb so my greatest challenge has been redeveloping my feel without the luxury of actually feeling my instruments," he explained. Sanders discovered his current drum, a Roland HPD-15 Handsonic, through his musician friend's website.
"It seemed a godsend when I read about its capabilities. It has a 10-inch circular pad divided into 15 sections, built-in sounds effects, backing/recording sequencer, two ribbon controllers and a D-Beam which reacts to movement and appears to respond invisibly."
He also owns a Zendrum Laptop.
"It's a custom built hands-only version they designed for me. It's a dedicated MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) hand controller with 27 tiny round triggers and sends out only MIDI data. It is a whole different animal and requires a different playing technique than my first drum."
Sanders said both drums offer unique advantages to him and different approaches for his performing styles.
"I'd say the major difference is four independent limbs, drum sticks and wrist dexterity. I do my best to reproduce with two hands a complete able bodied sound, so to speak."
Sanders performed his first solos at CAC's Guitar and Drum Recital and again at Astronomy Night during the past spring semester.
"I was very nervous," he said. "As a drummer I'm used to being in the back of the rest of the band. I do wish to create or participate in a show band. A solid hour or two of high energy music and extreme visual theatrics would be my preferred vehicle."
Sanders first became intrigued by the entertainment industry technology degree when he saw the courses offered in the program online. His next step was to find out if there were any courses that could accommodate his non-traditional musical situation.
Sanders was put in touch with his one-on-one percussion teacher - Travis Sawade.
"He was very patient with me," Sanders said. "He always had encouraging words at times when I felt overwhelmed. He is a great instructor."
Dan Bush, CAC's director of marketing who also teaches the Pro Tools Digital Audio Work Station class, also influenced Sanders. He sees the E.I.T. program ready to take off.
"This place is going to blow up with artistic and other industry-related activity once people understand the investment CAC has made in bringing the community a facility on par with L.A. or N.Y. - stocked with its own production expert."