McCook teen out-drums dad to represent Nebraska in regional competition

Monday, October 24, 2011

McCOOK, Nebraska - A McCook teen will represent Nebraska in a nation-wide drum competition, but he had to beat his Dad in the finals to get there.

Spencer Van Pelt, 17, will compete Tuesday in Kansas City, Missouri, at Guitar Center's Drum-Off. A few weeks ago, Spencer and his dad, Jason, both competed at the Guitar Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. A nationwide chain of 220 stores, Guitar Center sends only one winner from each store to the district finals. Although both advanced to the prelims in Lincoln, it was the younger Van Pelt who came out on top and earned the right to compete at districts.

He won $300-400 worth of drum accessories and an expense-paid trip to Kansas City. If he wins there, it's on to regionals, and then to nationals. Billed as the world's largest drum competition, the grand champion wins $50,000 and a recording contract.

He admitted it was a little unsettling to out-drum his father, the man who taught him everything he knows.

"It was weird, I never thought I'd actually beat him," he said.

As for Jason, it was almost to be expected.

"When I first started teaching him, I could see right away that Spencer had a lot of natural rhythm," Jason said. "But the main thing is, he practices a lot. And like with most things, anything you do over and over, you get good at. He works pretty hard at it."

Spencer first climbed onto his dad's drumset when he was five, with his father giving him lessons throughout the years. When he was around 11 years old, Spencer said he went through "a rebellious" period and "wanted to do it on my own." His dad backed off until, "I got to the point when I realized he was legit," Spencer recalled. "Now I really want his input."

Spencer said his solos are mainly "fast stuff" with "a lot of double kick pedal." He watches YouTube vidoes to pick up techniques and plays drums while listening to his iPod, playing along with Christian heavy metal music.

District competition will be tough, Spencer said, as he will be facing drummers who may be as young as him, or those who have been doing it for years.

But for now, Spencer is just concentrating on defining his three-minute solo and adding different elements.

So he practices every night in his room, sometimes up to an hour and half. It may be a little loud, but everyone in the vicinity has learned to be patient.

"We have very understanding neighbors, " Jason said.

Although Spencer admits he's a little nervous about districts, he's not losing sleep over it.

"Whatever happens, happens," he said. "I'll just do the best I can."

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