Playing the drums instills a sincere avidity in Ambrose Hillman’s pursuit with music


With the theatre lights beaming onto the stage as the red curtain thrust open, junior Ambrose Hillman sat solely alone before the anticipated audience with a mixture of fear and excitement gnawing at his mind. However, he was not left unattended, as his drum set and two drumsticks accompanied him during his performance in Wealthy Theatre.

Trying to calm the doubt and fear that typically invades his thoughts at the brink of each live performance, Ambrose tried to console himself at the time, knowing that his experience with playing drums stretches far back in his life.

“You really can’t be too comfortable when it comes to your mentality [when playing live],” said Ambrose, who’s been playing the drums for ten years. “There’s always going to be something that’s gonna throw you for a loop. [Playing live requires] a totally different mindset. I can’t be inside my head because I have to focus on what I’m doing.”

His solo performance at Wealthy Theatre, done through his involvement with The Academy of Music, wasn’t Ambrose’s first time playing on stage. Specifically, Ambrose has been familiar with the spotlight as early as fourth grade.

His performance in fourth grade involved playing easier music, so its repercussions weren’t as exciting. But his more recent performances, such as ones at The Intersection and the school’s talents show, give him an opportunity to showcase his hard work and dedication that he’s put into his instrument for a decade.

“There’s so much that music can offer, and it’s a huge part [of my life],” Ambrose said. “It’s one of the few extracurriculars that I’ve been consistently happy with and constantly wanted to continue.”

His love for music originates from his family, who share the same passion. Growing up with a father who plays guitar, brothers who play the trumpet and piano, and extended family who play instruments such as the mandolin and banjo, Ambrose has always been exposed to rhythm.

The drums, however, felt like they were naturally missing from his family, so it felt like the right instrument to pick up.

After starting with private lessons when he was first learning how to play, Ambrose joined the school’s band in sixth grade as a part of the school’s curriculum. Its structure and given restrictions are helpful at times for Ambrose, but he also enjoys playing on his own time with a group of friends in a band, which doesn’t have a name yet.

“[My band] mostly [plays] covers,” said Ambrose, who plays with a group of kids from Grandville. “But we’re trying to expand into original music, as well. I feel like covers are safer because people are going to know [the songs], but originals are a lot more fun because there are fewer restrictions.”

Playing with his band mainly provides an open, casual atmosphere to share music with a group of friends, and occasionally, they perform together. Although the band fluctuates between names and isn’t too serious, Ambrose finds a more constant source of music by playing in school.

“Middle school band didn’t really help me get astronomically better,” Ambrose said, “but then the shift from middle school band to high school band was great. I stuck through [middle school band] because I knew that I wanted to be on the drumline eventually, and now that I’m here, it’s really fun.”

Performing in front of the student section at every football game is definitely the highlight of being on the drumline.”

— Ambrose Hillman

Two hours of his school day is reserved for playing music, specifically for jazz band and zero hour percussion, and his time spent playing music is lengthened during the fall season when Ambrose plays on the school’s drumline for the marching band.

The fifth quarter show at the end of every football game, which is the drumline solo performance, fills Ambrose with mere fervor and excitement. The atmosphere of the whole show is what draws Ambrose into it: the late-night end of the football game, the feverish student section, and playing alongside his friends.

“Hearing the student section’s reaction to what we’ve been practicing for literal months is always great,” Ambrose said, “because it’s just a big payoff for the work [we’ve put into it]. It’s just really cool seeing [the hard work] all culminate in one night.”

Although Ambrose immerses himself in his music in various ways in his life, whether it be through private lessons, performing shows, or playing on his own time, the fifth quarter performance is one of his favorite ways to exhibit his playing and spend time with his fellow band members.

“Performing in front of the student section at every football game is definitely the highlight of being on the drumline,” Ambrose said. “I’m very close with the people in my grade in the drumline. We really are just a group of people that are trying to help each other be better. I wouldn’t pick any other people to play with.”