BY NICOLAS GRIZZLE
University of Michigan senior Aaron Ginns was a loud presence on the court at the NCAA Final Four championship in San Antonio, Texas, sinking triples and doubles on his snare as part of the school band. Now he’s off to play drums in another incredible location: The North Pole, where he’ll be attempting to enshrine himself into the Guinness Book Of World Records for both the northernmost drum solo and northernmost concert ever performed.
The jazz studies major leaves today, returning home the next week (check back with drummagazine.com for a follow-up story). “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m very much looking forward to it,” says Ginns.
The plan is to fly in to Greenland, hop over to a small Norwegian island to the north and then catch a helicopter to the North Pole, where he will perform for as long as he can before the freezing temperatures sink in. “It’s not as bad as you might think right now,” he says, with temperatures averaging between 0 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, the area gets almost 24 hours of sunlight this time of year. But still, there’s no telling how long he’ll really be able to play. “We’ll see how long my hands can stay warm,” he says with a laugh.
How does one get a chance to travel, let alone drum, in Santa’s back yard? Well, an opportunity opened up to accompany a scientific expedition, says Ginns, and the adventurer jumped at the chance. “They had mentioned people sometimes like to bring golf clubs or some gimmick for a photo op. I always bring a drum pad everywhere I travel to keep practicing, and I asked if I could bring drums,” he says. “They didn’t say no.”
The drum set, of course, would have to be the perfect combination of lightweight, easy to set up, and playable. It turns out DW had just unveiled such a kit at Winter NAMM in January: the LowPro traveler kit. With hardware, the kit weighs just 29 pounds and fits into a soft rolling case with handle. He got in touch with DW, who facilitated the shipping of the LowPro kit Drum magazine had just finished reviewing.
The performance will be mostly improvised, Ginn says, as the weather will likely dictate much of the itinerary once he arrives. Of course, there will be witnesses on hand and plenty of video footage taken both to verify the event for the official record (according to Guinness World Records, the performance qualifies as a concert if it has a live audience).
Ginns is a frequent flyer and has already paradiddled on nearly every continent, needing only Australia and Antarctica to complete the world tour. His goal is travel to 100 countries. “I always bring my practice pad,” he says. “That’s number one on the packing list. I could be in the Amazon and I’ll be drumming, or sitting on a bus in South America and I’ll pull out a practice pad.”
After traveling with Wolverines on their March Madness run to Los Angeles, New York, Wichita, and San Antonio, and then setting a drumming record in the North Pole, Ginns is off to his biggest adventure yet: Life after college. He graduates the week after his return, and his plan is to head to New York City, a particularly exciting destination for jazz drummers like himself, to gig and possibly study for a Master’s degree.