Bye Bye Bernie

You’d think someone’s first lesson would be the most memorable one, but that’s not the way it is with me.

My fifth lesson is the one I’ll not forget.

The year was 2007 and Scott’s Fine Arts Studio, which was located in downtown Grand Forks and offered various music lessons, gave me the name, Bernie Thomas as a drum teacher.

With sticks in hand, I had just climbed the stairs to Bernie’s drum studio on the second floor where his epic set sat it all its glory. As our lesson was about to begin, Bernie announced to this older-than-average wannabe drummer, “Today, we’re going to put you in the saddle.”

It was a wonderful surprise to be invited to seat myself on the stool in front of Bernie’s impressive drum kit. Up until that time, like most beginners (unless you begin when you’re young in your school’s band), I had played only on a drab ole gray practice pad.

That fifth lesson was a turning point for me and when I got home I had an announcement of my own. “No more practice pad for me,” I told Jim. “I need a drum set.”


I found a used Tama kit at Kenny’s Music Shoppe and for nine years now, I have loved studying all things percussion with Bernie, one of the nicest and kindest young men I’ve ever encountered.

Bernie started drumming at a young age, played all through high school at Central in Grand Forks and then at the University of North Dakota. He’s been teaching percussion here for more than a dozen years most recently through Arioso Music Academy.

No doubt you noticed the above headline which reads, “Bye Bye Bernie.”

On July 23, I had my last lesson with Bernie as he and his wife, Natasha, are moving to New Orleans where they have new positions and face wonderful career opportunities.

So, wistfully I must say, “Bye Bye Bernie.”

However, my drum sticks are not retiring.

I think most people, young or older, have a dream deep within. I remind myself of that each time my eyes rest on a plaque in our home.

It reads, “You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream.”

Time was when I dreamed of being a great pianist so I started lessons as a youngster. My teacher was a Mrs. Brown from Westhope, N.D. She pronounced my name, “Naa-o-my.” I didn’t mind a bit and I was doing well despite not liking to practice.

Then, when I wanted to quit, my folks let me.

Parents – Do not let your children quit music lessons!

My next dream was to play guitar. I took lessons when we lived in Wyoming and was doing amazingly well when my instructor took ill and had to quit. I let that dream die by not finding another guitar teacher and not continuing to practice on my own.

Practicing is much more tolerable when you have a lesson to learn.

I have always loved to sing and enjoyed vocal lessons with the late Don Danielson. I also had a lot of fun taking harmonica lessons from Al Gunderson. My favorite song to play on harmonica is, “Jesus, What a Beautiful Name.”

Several years ago, we formed a worship band at our church. We had great high school and college age drummers with us now and then, but when they moved on we were left beat-less.

That’s when I decided I would pursue the drums. At the moment we have two drummers: Adam Erickson, a college student, and myself. We love to drum to the great contemporary music of today, as well as to the wonderful old hymns.

Needless to say, I have no plans to quit drum lessons any time soon. I keep hearing what Bernie has said more than once: “There aren’t enough girl drummers around.”

So, in August, I begin lessons with Mike Blake, renowned teacher of applied percussion at UND. He was Bernie’s teacher once, too, and someone else’s who is near and dear to me.


Who knew, 30-some years ago, when I took son Dean to Mike for drum lessons, that one day I’d be there myself.

All because this time I’m “sticking” to my dreams.

Until Soon

4 Responses

  1. MB

    Keep stickin’, Naomi. I appreciate getting a bit more insight about your music connection with Bernie.

  2. Wanda Kitzman

    You “are” a dreamer Naomi, what a great thing to complete “one” of your dreams !!! You are so awesome !!! Drum on sweet friend !!

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