My name is Kevin Mendes and I am a drummer based in Toronto, Canada. Sitting behind a drum kit and playing music with others is my favourite thing to do in life. It didn’t take long for me to know that what I really wanted for my future was to turn my passion into a career. This is a little background about me and the story about Simpledrummer and how it came to be.
The thing about Simpledrummer that keeps me working on it is similar to the feeling I get from performing music. It allows me to share my own knowledge of the drums and my passion for teaching with people all over the world. It has given me a lasting sense of purpose and fulfillment in my life, which I am grateful for. It hasn’t been easy getting here, but my commitment and persistence in the face of all doubts got me to where I am with my business today. Here’s how it all started…
A Little About Me…
Music has always been a source of joy for me as well as a refuge. It helped me to find a creative outlet with other people that I could relate to and identify with. Although I love all aspects of music, I’ve always felt that my calling was to be a drummer. Playing the drums allowed me to escape teenage pressures and I enjoyed the feeling that I was getting “good” at something.
After my post-secondary studies in music, the name of the game became the gig “hustle”. I spent most of my 20s and 30s meeting other musicians, playing gigs and generally trying to make the most out of a career as a drummer-for-hire while teaching drum lessons. It was not easy. There is very little stability and it can be incredibly volatile. Some months I was busy and getting by nicely and other months I hardly any gigs and was struggling to pay my bills. Deep down, I knew that there was a risk that this life was unsustainable for the future. Rather than change course, I wanted to figure out a way to “make it work” on my own terms.
Turning Struggles Into Something
Fast-forward to 2014 and my wife Sarah (girlfriend at the time), was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. That put the breaks on our entire lives and my drumming career. I needed to be there for her everyday. Every doctor’s appointment, biopsy, chemo treatment (mon-fri) and radiation, I was always there with her. Even at home, I couldn’t just leave to play a gig. I had to be there in case she became sick enough that she needed to go to the emergency room.
It all happened so fast and changed my life so drastically. I continued to teach lessons because it was flexible. I could always cancel a lesson if I needed to take my wife to the hospital. Gigs require more commitment that I was no longer able to take on. You can’t just call in sick or ask someone to learn all the music in only a few hours to play in your place. If, at the last minute I can’t show up, then 99% of the time, the gig would be canceled and everyone would lose.
It was at this time that I began filming video lessons in my basement with the intent of starting a website. I had not thought about Simpledrummer until this point. I needed a brand name. Something easy to remember that provided a degree of identity and function. I thought about two words that encompassed who I was and what I was trying to do. Simple…and Drummer. I did a search to see if the name was taken for any business or website and it wasn’t. It was probably the only thing about Simpledrummer that ever came easily and with hardly any work. It took 5 minutes to think about Simpledrummer and I’ve always thought the name fits like a glove.
Back then, I spent hours everyday making videos that documented my approach to teaching. It took time, learning and experimentation over the course of 9 months to make my first 80 videos. I had to learn about lighting, camera technique, video editing and post-production. I spent hours almost every night watching tutorials and editing the clips I had filmed. My goal was to make professional looking videos that captured the viewer’s complete attention on the drums and instruction. I wanted to be able to film from anywhere, without any differences in the background.
By the time my wife had recovered from her cancer, our lives were back on track again. I was engaged in the construction of simpledrummer.com while continuing to film and edit videos and she later started a fantasitc blog about simple and intentional living, called simpleintentional.com.
Luckily, I had tremendous help from a former bandmate who was now a freelance web designer. He helped me build the site for a very friendly rate. On the side, I learned a boatload about web design from him and that enabled me to get more done, save on costs and be more independent in my construction and operation of the website. At the same time, the performing side of my career was back on the table and gigs were picking up again. Now it was a balancing act, thinking about Simpledrummer while my career picked up again.
After all the filming, building and design and legal stuff, it was time to launch and tell as many people as possible about Simpledrummer. It was a slow start and I continued to invest in: the site’s design, reaching a wider audience and making more content for the library. I also began work on my 2nd and 3rd drumming textbooks, which are now published and available in print or PDF in the shop and select musical instrument retailers. These books are the culmination of my most successful beginner lessons that brought about Simpledrummer.
In 2020, the covid pandemic hit and for the 2nd time, my drumming career came to a grinding halt…but what about Simpledrummer®? I was able to provide more value to people who were stuck at home with time for their drumming hobby. Many people just wanted something new to do, to help them cope. I was already in a good position for growth and it picked up right away. I expanded the website to include stand-alone courses that didn’t require users to pay for a membership as well as virtual 1-on-1 lessons via video conferencing.
What Are Today’s Challenges?
There are a ton of other great businesses that offer online drumming lessons and education. Since the dawn of YouTube, students have come in and shown me videos and lessons they found on the internet and then asked me for an explanation. There is a disconnect there. While it is great to demonstrate something cool (as most videos do), it is entirely different to effectively teach someone who doesn’t have any prior know-how. Creating engaging online content that actually works as effectively as taking lessons, that is the biggest challenge in this industry. It is the main focal point about Simpledrummer.
I’ve built Simpledrummer for the people who want to learn the true fundamentals of drumming in a simple way. It’s all about small ideas in a logical progression and lots of guided practice. The play-along videos are what set us apart from other sites the most. What is different about Simpledrummer is the way that we allow you to dive deeper into the fundamentals, without glossing over them and rushing to the flashy stuff. It was designed and built to be real, effective learning on the drums.
Do What You Do Best
Turning your passion into a business is rewarding in so many ways. It’s a boatload of work and will likely test the boundaries of your self-belief and potential…but it’s worth it. The most important thing that you need to succeed is a willingness to learn. No matter what your business is, there will be a lot to learn. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to do everything yourself.
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is crucial. There’s a lot you can learn to do on your own. It’s very empowering to learn the ins and outs of your own business and to have the know-how to keep it running and growing. There are things about Simpledrummer that exceed my own abilities and I’ve had to learn when to hand a task over to someone else.
So in the end, the moral of the story is…you really can do anything you set your mind to, as long as you have commitment, a willingness to learn and you’re not afraid of a little blood, sweat and tears.
Thanks for reading about me and about Simpledrummer. Whether you’re a member of just stopping by, I hope you find the lessons here to be helpful to you.
See you in the practice room,
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