From behind the lead guitar, the lead vocal and the lead piano is the core of the music, the soul child of the song, the pacemaker, heart-beater, metronymic drum.
Its cycles drive the music; it is what our ear associates with first. It is what translates the melody into a mathematical frequency of beats per minute for our brain.
It is her teacher, experiment and equipment from behind which she translates the intangible abstractions of melody and tempo into physical and powerful beats.
Fort Collins jazz-drumming sensation, (born in 1967 in Buford, South Carolina) Audree Dillard, aka Audree D., grew up with music in her veins.
“Everyone around me was musical; even my mother, whom I had never seen play anything before, sat down one day and jammed on the piano,” said Audree D. who began her drumming days at age two.
Audree D. was surrounded by talent while growing up. Under the influence of three amazingly talented uncles, she found her future path.
“I had three uncles, David, Clarence and John, those guys could have been the Jackson Five; they were doing the same things at the same time,” said Audree D.
Music around the home and in her soulful Baptist church community would eventually lead Audree D. to her first public performance playing drums at a talent show when she was 13.
She was one of a number of students displaying their talents, but one thing set her apart: Audree D. had taught herself the drums.
Without a drum-set, Audree D. would practice drumming at home using rolled up pieces of paper as drumsticks and pounding her foot on the floor in place of a bass drum; the entire time, hearing the beat in her head.
She would eventually build herself a makeshift drum set out of cardboard boxes, where she would teach herself to play on a set of multiple drums.
“When I was young, I knew I wanted to drum, and I would use anything I could to do it because I didn’t have a set to play on,” said Audree D. “Sometimes, with all of the noise I made pounding on things, I’m surprised I didn’t get in more trouble than I did.”
Finally, by her sixteenth birthday, Audree D. would get a drum-set, though it was second hand, it was a drum-set.
“I didn’t care what they looked like, they were drums,” said Audree D.
Upon getting her first drum-set home and assembled, Audree D. immediately sat down and began pounding her heart out, everything that she had taught herself and discovered on her own was finally able to find an outlet.
Her parents, never before realizing their daughter’s almost natural talent, were ravished.
“When I got that first set, my parents had no idea that I could actually play like I knew what I was doing, they were amazed,” said Audree D. “I always knew I could and wanted to play, but I never knew how to communicate that feeling to my parents. They were hesitant before that point, not knowing if it would be something I would stick with. Well, I stuck with it.”
It would not be until ten years of learning the drums herself that Audree D. would take any formal lessons.
“I always had drumming in me, but, at the same time, I was always looking to go to the next level, so I began to learn through other great drummers,” said Audree D. who continues, even now to take lessons periodically.
At 20, Audree D. moved west to Colorado where she would have to restart the process of meeting and making musical connections. She initially lived with relatives, but they soon moved to Indiana leaving Audree D. and her drums alone in Fort Collins.
“When I first got here, I didn’t know anyone,” Audree D. said. “I just played on open-mic jam-sessions and I eventually got recognized by some of the really good local musicians.”
Beginning her career in Colorado churned out little to no profit for Audree D. During her first 10 years, starting with playing open-mic at A.J.’s (now the Sunset) and finally progressing to become a principle collaborator and band-member with one of Colorado’s top jazz musician, Walt Jenkins, Audree D. played for free.
“I played without getting paid for years, but I could never regret it,” said Audree D. “During those years I learned so much, I mean, more than I could have even imagined. And the people I got to work with were amazing musicians.”
Beginning with gigs at Linden’s and eventually moving elsewhere, Audree D. continued to play with Walt Jenkins until last August when they had to end their weekly performances with the closing of the Sangria Rose tapas bar.
Today, Audree D. continues to play regularly with local jazz group, Peaches and the Brokers. The group plays a number of venues from Longmont to Loveland to Estes Park and Evergreen. Audree D. can also be seen performing at Fort Collins’ County Cork on Drake west of College Ave.
“It is always a lot of fun to play in Fort Collins and we are going to try to make it up there more,” said Audree D., whose most recent performance in town was greeted by a lively, dancing crowd. “Playing in Colorado in general is fun. I can’t see myself leaving here and having as good of a time anywhere else. Besides, I have such a network of people here, I can never run out of work.”
Her passion for music continues to carry her and the enjoyment of familiar places make Audree D. feel at home behind her drums (even more so than she already feels). So far, she has become a permanent installment in Colorado’s music community as well as producing new members through her own students. But she still has her eyes set on loftier goals.
“I never get as good as I want to be,” said Audree D.