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Day in the life of Janel Spalding

PUBLISHED: 12:53 12 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:51 20 February 2013

Janel gets fit drumming at JDT Music in Dereham.

Janel gets fit drumming at JDT Music in Dereham.

Professional musician Janel Spalding, 40, was warned she might never play drums again after being badly hurt in a car crash. She overcame adversity to co-found a Dereham-based studio where she could pass on skills.

Day in the life Janel Spalding



Professional musician Janel Spalding, 40, was warned she might never play drums again after being badly hurt in a car crash. She overcame adversity to co-found a Dereham-based studio where she could pass on skills honed during her days on the road with bands such as The Weasels and The Eleventh Hour. Today, JDT Music has hundreds of students ranging from tiny tots to grandparents, and offers other musical tuition plus unusual keep-fit sessions. Janel has a son, Neo, aged four. Interview by Mark Tweedie.



My alarm goes off at 7am, then I get Neo ready for school. If Im not rushed I enjoy a good breakfast boiled egg with dippers, muesli or Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and my morning decaffeinated latte. Ill pack a pasta lunch for energy; some days Im on the go until 11pm.
Our studio is on Rashs Green industrial estate in Dereham. Weve about 250 students from the ages of four to 60, and weve had an 80-year-old lady. Not everyone drums: our tutors teach guitar, vocals, keyboards and music technology too.




Elsewhere, we work with schools, nurseries and pre-schools, so I load up with percussion instruments and little guitars and off I go.
Weve worked with the Matthew Project and day centres, plus people with Downs syndrome and autism. A student who is blind is one of my top drummers.




At JDT youll hear anything from rock to jazz, funk and hip-hop. Some students want to be stars. I had a taste of life on the road in bands and as a session drummer and, while I dont regret any of it and have many happy memories, I know how tough the music business can be.
Its not so much the homesickness as the months of driving through the night between venues, kipping in vans, sometimes wondering where the next penny or bite to eats coming from. Even if youre travelling together its quite a lonely life. The good side is meeting amazing people and performing building up an appreciative following whod travel from miles around just to see your show.




I guess there was novelty value in the early days in me playing drums. Occasionally, youd get the attitude: Oh, theyve got a female drummer so she wont be very good. My reaction was: Dont make a judgment until youve heard me play.
I was with my brother Darren in The Weasels, and we toured across Europe. Hes still a musician. He lives in Germany and writes a lot of his own material.




The Eleventh Hour, a Thetford-based group also comprising American and Spanish members, played very much on the female drummer aspect, so there I was in cat-suit, stiletto heels and loads of make-up!
That band taught me so much, then it split up in the mid-1990s and not long afterwards came the car accident. I had a neck brace for six months, plastic surgery on my face, injured my back and doctors said Id need a major operation.




In time, I picked up my drumsticks, though I realised I couldnt tour again. What I hadnt anticipated was something my former English teacher, Mrs OConnor, had told me would happen: that one day Id become a teacher. But here I am.




Plenty is happening this year. We hope to regain the world record for a non-stop group drumming marathon. We held it before, with 60 hours, but that was beaten by a 66-hour marathon, so about six of us are aiming now for 72, maybe in August.




Before then, were publishing our next drumming teaching manual. Our first was nearly 10 years in the making between me, Pete Wright, who helped set up the studio nine years ago, and Nia Howe, who put everything together.




A recent venture has been Monday evening Drum Fit exercise sessions. These work on the premise that drummers must be fit. So, theres a warm-up, everyone sits at a drum-kit, I introduce drumming patterns, we put those movements to the music, and as the weeks go by we progress to playing five or six songs continuously.




Its brilliant for the bingo wings of the upper arms, tones the bottom and thighs, boosts co-ordination and gets rid of tension. Men and women come along. Some really beat those drums, then theyll say: Thanks for that; I feel so much better now.
And me? Im tired at the finish. I show just how much energy a drummer expends, and if I dont think my group is working hard enough Ill jolly well say! Sometimes its hard combining being a single mum and running a business, but I want to give my son as much quality time as I can. We go swimming, and he likes visiting farms to see the animals. On Sundays we catch up with family and friends. Neo has drumming lessons, but he sings and learns tap too hes quite the all-round performer.



Details about Drum Fit and other JDT activities on 01362 694817; www.jdtmusic.co.uk

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