Dareem Chandler is a music teacher, professional drummer, composer and now the founder of Drumlab Academy and Studio.
It was set up, during the pandemic, which closed some doors to Chandler, but opened others.
He said the concept of the lab, at his home in Debe, south Trinidad, took shape during the first lockdown in 2020.
"Before the pandemic, I was on the verge of getting into some great opportunities for my musical career. But everything came to stop. All those opportunities were taken away from me abruptly."
Chandler, who has played with a range of vocalists and bands, including TT jazz musician Adan Hagley and The Skatalites – the popular ska band from Jamaica – said opportunities including US tours with some big names in soca and recording opportunities for studio album collaborations were among the projects halted by covid19.
That would have been good – not only financially but also for networking and expanding his range of experience as a performer.
"I was in the US when the lockdowns began, and so I returned to TT. Nothing was happening."
But then, while seeking inspiration online at home in Debe, Chandler said, "The thought crossed my mind to build a space where I could have everything I need for teaching, such as equipment, mechanisms to manage the noise level."
Chandler has been investing in equipment for years.
"At the point when I started the studio, I already had two drum sets. So it was just for me to source a few other parts to make the collection complete."
The space also includes a recording studio, for which friends lent him equipment such as microphones and studio interfaces.
Asked how his classes work, Chandler said he uses the recording studio to help develop his music students.
"We learn the fundamentals of the drum set, but we also make it goal-oriented. I ask the students to choose a song, then, I would use the exercise to determine the technical abilities necessary to accomplish the song. We spend time working on the technical skills, then we work on the song."
He said the studio gives him the option of recording students as they play along with tracks, and this helps Chandler and his students track their progress.
"I have seen it motivate many students."
Chandler has a wide age range of learners: the youngest is four and his oldest student in his 40s.
He said the studio, which opened in November 2020 has grown, and much more can happen within the confines of public health regulations to limit the spread of covid19.
"For what I have been able to do so far, I am incredibly proud and satisfied. I do classes and drum recordings. I have done recordings for soca artistes here in TT that should be released next year. These are pieces I have recorded here. I have been able to do some cool and interesting things since I've had the space."
Chandler, who is self-taught, started learning to play the drums at 15. He said in the world of music many people consider that late, since many children begin as early as four. He is a graduate of the University of TT, where he did a degree in classical percussion, which covers a range of percussive instruments.
"But doing it at that stage meant a lot of my decisions were more informed. As a teen, I spent a lot of time working with my father in his advertising agency, and so I learned a lot about business and about what it means to get up every day to go and do something to make money. Though I grew up in a business space, I don't love it, but I love playing music, and that informs my decisions."
He has been teaching music in both private and public schools for the past eight years, and also taught private classes from his home.
On his next step, creating the academy, he said, "I think it is a little bit organic and partly planned. It is something I have always wanted to do. I think because of the pandemic, I've now been able to do it. The timing felt right since nothing else was happening – no shows or tours or anything – so I could focus on it 100 per cent."
He said he has had experiences that reassured him of the academy's value to the community in how music helps his students and the positive impact it has on their lives, especially during this time when activities are limited.
"A student's mom told me he always talks about drum class. He loves it now to the point where he asked his mother to increase his hours, which she did. You can see the excitement.
"My four-year-old student used to come to class dragging his feet, but by the time he started playing, it's like he became someone else. After classes his energy is so high he can be seen skipping and running out of class. Seeing students hungry for knowledge is really encouraging."
Chandler said when possible, he intends to have musical clinics in which he'll put together a performance package for presentation to students in a sort of school tour to help inspire children who may be dreaming of becoming musicians.
He is looking forward to an influx of new students, who usually join his classes through referrals and social media. He also looks forward to doing online classes while curating wider range of recordings, both instrumental and vocal, as covid19 restrictions gradually relax. Currently, classes are scheduled to ensure all public health protocols are observed, so the number of students attending has fallen to four. But Chandler remains optimistic.
"I also want to develop my online presence to make information accessible across the globe, especially when it comes to sharing Caribbean culture.
"Caribbean musicians are always admired because we are so versatile. I have heard other musicians say Caribbean musicians can do things they can do, but they can't always do what we do – and so I look forward to sharing more of what we can do."