An Everyday Hero with a passion for drums, a passion for teaching. Did we mention drums?
Today's everyday hero has been keeping time and the beat in Portland for six decades.
You could say he was born with drumsticks in his hands.
From the time he first picked up those sticks at age 5, and the 55 years in between, Don Worth taught percussive lessons to at least a thousand kids and adults.
Deep inside Worth's Drum Studio in his northeast Portland home, drums of every shape and size are stacked floor to ceiling.
Drumsticks fill in the blank spaces between, glimmering in the glow of drum maker signs. He's got at least six full kits here, and two others that he takes on the road. The obsession started early.
"I started playing at 5 and started playing in drum corps at 7, and played solo contests all through high school," Worth said, while, naturally, sitting behind his kit. "I started playing and started playing professionally at 15.
"It was just natural. Something to do and it was either this or play baseball or football and then everybody else grew taller than me and bigger," he said.
Although many of his peers caught the rock-and-roll and drum bug when The Beatles came to the states in the early 1960s, for Worth it was titans of drumming who caught his ear and eye.
"I started before Ringo had even shown up. So by the time he showed up, I'd already seen Buddy Rich and Louie Belson so I was into the big band and jazz stuff," he said.
"It didn't hurt that his father, Don Worth, had a drum shop downtown that later moved to the Sellwood neighborhood. His early proficiency led to his first job.
"I would get called up onto the band class with 5th and 6th graders because I couldn't be in band yet so I'd go and teach the drummers," the younger Worth said. "I was never in a big drum corps. By the time that I got to that point I'd had enough of marching and it was time to sit down and make a living."
That living meant playing in blues and jazz bands around town and teaching, teaching, teaching.
His students have ranged in age from 8 to 88.
"Some just want to do it for fun," he said. "I get guys now, adults, who always wanted to play drums, but their mothers said NO, you're not bringing drums in the house. Now they're 40 years old and Mom's not coming over, and I have drums in the house.'"
What makes a good drummer?
"One that listens, plays good time," he said. "But for different genres it's a different thing. If you're going to start playing fusion, you better be able to play an odd time and know how to play.
"You've also got to be able to play more if it's asked. So ... if it's less, then you play less. "
When he's not teaching or practicing, Worth plays regularly with the Bottleneck Blues band and with guitarist JR Sims. One of his students, a freshman at Franklin High School won his first snare drum competition.
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