Rising to a dream: UR alum finds his beat

Courtesy of guitarinternational.com

Everyone has hopes and dreams, but those belonging to children tend to be a bit unrealistic, perhaps because kids have not lived long enough to understand the loftiness of goals like becoming the President of the United States or skyrocketing into space.
Sam Fishman ’10 has recently found professional luck in realizing his lifelong passion: playing the drums.

He began playing when he was only five years old, first by banging on kitchen pots and pans.

“I remember going to a family friend’s house and sitting behind his drum set,” he said. “That was the moment I knew I had to play the drums.”

Throughout the years, this interest never died. In fact, Fishman realized in high school exactly what he did not want to be doing, which only fostered his desire to pursue music at the professional level.

“I went to a magnet high school for engineering and hard sciences,” he explained. “During my junior year, I realized that calculus was not something I was interested in and music was my calling. I was in five different ensembles!”

Fishman loved performing and he knew he was talented, but that alone was not a recipe for starting a career. The missing ingredient was experience, something he got plenty of during his time at UR.

In addition to his B.A. in music, Fishman played in a funk band called Ice Cream Social, a reggae jam band named Parotia — now known as the Kevin Plane Band — and a jazz combo called Tootinkamen.

He was also a member of the River Campus Jazz Band for four years, took lessons at the Eastman School of Music and studied subjects like music history and ear training in the College Music Department.

There’s no denying that Fishman received extensive formal instruction in music at UR, but the bulk of his learning occurred outside the classroom.

“When I look back on my college career, I always remember the connections I made as opposed to the classes I took,” he explained. “My education was organizing concerts and rehearsing my own bands. It is due to my gained experience that I am able to hold the confidence needed to be a professional musician.”

Today, Fishman is the drummer in a band called Madison Rising, named after James Madison. He describes it as a “musical project because of its unique nature” — the band cares about its message as much as it does its music.

Like at UR, where the people that Fishman had the opportunity to work with were as much a part of his college career as anything else, thus far, one of the most meaningful moments of his professional career was a free evening with the band in Washington, D.C.

“We ended up at this hipster bar — I forget the name of it — and [we] made ourselves at home,” he reminisced. “It was just one of those bonding moments you always hear about. Being on the road and all, you need time to connect with your band mates outside of a musical setting.”

That necessary sense of connection translates into Madison Rising’s music, guiding the reception of the “message that American culture is alive and well” — a point that the band hopes to relay in addition to creating good music, according to its website.

“Madison Rising promotes freedom, smaller government and individual responsibility,” Fishman noted. “We want people to realize that they have the ability to get stuff done if they put their mind to it.”

That’s just what Fishman did, and it’s how he’s begun to make it in the business.

“I would not be a working musician if I thought someone else was just going to take care of me,” he said. “I had to sweat through many hours of practice and perseverance before I found the opportunity to work with a record label.”

That dedication has begun to pay off. Madison Rising plans to tour from New York City to the Midwest and hopes to travel the rest of the country at some point, too.

Maybe it was a far-fetched dream to play drums professionally given the nature of today’s job market, but Fishman is doing just that. And, who knows, maybe the next president will actually hail from UR. Maybe childhood intuition isn’t so far off after all.

Seligman is a member of the class of 2012.



You can contact Cheryl at cheryl.seligman@rochester.edu.

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