Moving to a Different Beat: Youth Beatz Shares Life Lessons
From Rock Drummer to Mr. Rich
“The inspiration for Youth Beatz came from touring nationally as a rock drummer with an intensive schedule. One day I asked myself, ‘Where would I be in life without drumming?’ The answer wasn’t great. I could have been a negative statistic,” says Rich. “I realized the importance drumming had in my life and I wanted to share the benefits of drumming, not as entertainment but as enrichment.”
Fortunately, as a youth Rich had lots of support to pursue his goals, including from his mom, his fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Strauss, who told him, “I always knew you’d do something with your energy,” and from the larger community. Rich had always bee interested in rock music growing up and regularly listened to American Top 40. When he was nine years old, his mom introduced him to drumming as a way to address his active nature and told him that if he wanted to play drums, he’d need to earn half the money to buy a drum set.
Faced with this challenge, he began stacking firewood and pumping gas to raise money. When he received his drum set, Rich adopted a tenacious practice routine, playing along with his favorite bands for hours each day after school, gaining focus and expertise, and burning energy.
“By the time I was 13 and in middle school, I was playing at Lebanon High School dances,” adds Rich. “Playing drums felt more creative and free than playing sports.”
After high school and a stint in the Marines, Rich launched his professional career as a rock drummer and toured with bands nationally. In a highly exclusive profession—there are roughly the same number of nationally touring drummers as there are astronauts—Rich felt very fortunate. But he also began to feel the need to give back to his community and share the benefits drumming had provided.
Making a Difference in Kids’ Lives
“It was almost a revelation that I had accomplished my goals, and now I needed to share and be a part of my community,” says Rich. “I felt I could use drumming as a more powerful form of enrichment versus entertainment. I came off tour in 2005 and started Youth Beatz.”
Rich started small, reaching out to after-school programs in the Upper Valley to gauge interest. Helping him develop enrichment programming came in the form of 21st Century Family Grants, and he was off and running. Today “Mr. Rich”—to tens of thousands of students—proudly notes that he’s a juried and accredited member of the New Hampshire State Council for the Arts.
He uses drumming and rhythm as a platform to demonstrate praise and encourage students to make positive connections with their peers. Mr. Rich models kindness, respect, and teamwork, and students and staff embrace his message because it’s passionate, uplifting, and genuine. At the end of each session, Mr. Rich leads a heart-to-heart discussion on how it feels to share feelings, to feel cared about, and to care for others. It’s a simple yet powerful message that resonates with students and staff alike.
Kids and community come first for Rich, and he’s very proud of the important life lessons Youth Beatz teaches: If you respect yourself and others, you can be successful at anything you want to be. Learn how to be brave, communicate effectively, and learn what achievement and success feel like.
Rich feels good knowing Youth Beatz is making a difference in kids’ lives, and he wishes there had been something like Youth Beatz when he was growing up. He is also very thankful for his supporters at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and his proud sponsors Grappone Automotive and HomeDepot for helping Youth Beatz succeed.“You know it’s your calling when everything you’ve done comes together to make you relatable and successful and reach others,” adds Rich. “I consider this my calling. This is what I’ll be doing.”