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Writer and musician Andrew Peggie continues his series of case studies, meeting young people across the UK and finding out what making music means to them.


Meet 16-year-old Andrew, a prodigious percussionist from Birmingham for whom the music never stops.


* Liam plays piano and drums - a lot
* His current timetable lists six different band/ensemble rehearsals a week, plus lessons, projects, gigs...
* He comes from a musical family - mum a professional musician, and brother/sisters all play instruments
* "If my hands got chopped off I could always learn to play with my feet"


Sixteen-year-old Liam sees nothing unusual about the fact that on six out of seven days in any one week he has music commitments - rehearsals, lessons, gigs. In fact, he provides a daily timetable that appears to substitute practising for eating and then continues after rehearsals, long into the night: "Nobody really sleeps in my house," he says. Liam is a percussionist.


To him it's just normal. Liam's mum is a musician and his brother and two sisters also play various combinations of piano, drums and oboe. So music's no big deal in a way, you just get on with it. There's a down-to earth approach to Liam's music making and no time for any high-flown pretentiousness about music's deep spiritual qualities. "After music college, I want to be a session musician. Music's for people to take part in. What keeps me going? Just the fun of it. If my hands got chopped off I could always learn to play with my feet - and you can get one-handed drummers," he adds.


This sense of pragmatism pervades Liam's comments. How would he describe the music he plays? "I do so many different styles you're bound to like one of them," he offers, "but some of the contemporary stuff verges on the ridiculous. The silent Cage piece - I'd say that sort of stuff is art rather than music."


What makes him frustrated about music? "When gigs clash," he says. Liam is clearly not the angst-ridden creative sort though he does admit, in a rare exploration of music's benefits, that "playing drums relieves stress".


The hardest thing he's had to do is composition. "It takes a lot of time. Sometimes they're hard to get started on," he says. Perhaps this is also why he reckons GCSE music is getting in the way of his musical enjoyment - though to be fair, he lists all his other school subjects as having the same effect.


Delve beneath the matter-of-fact exterior and you find an extraordinary breadth of activity and experience: a samba band (which Liam leads), experimental jazz, Birmingham Schools' Percussion Ensemble, City of Birmingham Brass Band, rock band, ska band. Then forays into djembe playing, minimalist mallet music, bhangra with Fame Academy Bollywood, plus all the usual visiting projects available in the Birmingham area - CBSO, Birmingham Royal Ballet, conservatoire. "I got a BBC scholarship thing for being the best drummer in the Midlands and I bought a load of cymbals which distract me."


And then, just as it seemed here was a pretty straightforward young musician to categorise, Liam announces his five greatest musicians/pieces of all time: "Anything by Debussy, David Bowie stuff, Golden Brown by the Stranglers, Mozart's Requiem and Herbie Hancock." Surely anyone who's capable of being inspired or moved by this range of music is going to be a lot more than just a musical functionary.

What's so great about music? #5

Writer and musician Andrew Peggie meets a prodigious 16-year-old percussionist for whom the music never stops.

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