Meet Andrew Hewitt: Australian of the Year nominee, disability advocate, motivational speaker, drum teacher, radio broadcaster. He’s also a big fan of Gig Buddies Sydney, among many other callings. We caught up over coffee to discuss his role with Can-Do-Musos, an initiative set up to promote and support musicians who face “challenges” in their lives.
Matthew and Sean from Gig Buddies Sydney with Andrew.
In your own words, what is Can-Do-Musos is all about?
Can-Do-Musos was put together in New York in 2013. The idea came following a meeting between four drummers with disabilities who spoke about the frustration we have in getting proper opportunities, to get out and play at real gigs.
We wanted to challenge that. We wanted to showcase what we can do, not focus on what we can’t do. A website (showcasing an artist or bands’ “challenges”, along with talent) soon followed and we now have 151 musicians from 19 countries on it - and 42 of those are Australians.
One of those on the website is Michael Jochum, who I am looking at doing a tour with later in the year; he used to work with Korn. He told me once he could only feel from the waist up so when he plays drums he has to look down to see what his feet are doing. We are looking at doing a tour together where we can both talk about our challenges and how we have overcome them on the drum kit.
You’re also on the board of directors. What does that entail?
We have a monthly meeting on Skype to talk about ways in how we can move forward and get Can-Do-Musos out in the community. We recently presented at NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants – a “not-for-profit association that promotes the pleasures and benefits of making music and strengthens the $17 billion global music products industry’) in California to about 30 people and the response we got was amazing! People told us it was the best presentation we saw at NAMM during the whole weekend.
We presented in the Hot Zone, a place where you do hands on training. The idea was to get a message out that just because we have a disability doesn’t mean we are not able, and NAMM was the perfect place to showcase that as there were so many things going on.
Andrew and the Can-Do-Musos team presenting at NAMM, California.
Has your role taken you to other places overseas?
I’ve been to America with Can-Do-Musos and I have been all around Australia with various disability organisations, who email me asking “if we pay for your flights and accommodation will you come and do a week for us?” I do drumming workshops and motivational performances where I talk about myself and the problems I have doing what I do. I went to Perth for a week, been to Adelaide (presenting TRAP’D at the Diversional Therapy conference) and I’ve also been to Melbourne.
Andrew at the TRAP'D Diversional Therapy Conference in Adelaide.
What are the future aims for Can-Do-Musos?
We eventually want to set up as a not-for-profit organisation and we’re trying to work out if that will be here or in America. We want to have people in different countries that can set up Can-Do events so musicians from our website can go and play to big crowds.
And what about yourself? For someone labeled ‘Australia’s most inspirational drummer’, is there anything you’d like to achieve that you haven’t already?
I am trying to get myself out there more. I am trying to encourage the world to take on musicians with a disability, no matter what. My biggest problem is even though I have this huge profile people still don’t take me seriously. I was playing in a cover band recently and I found out I only got the gig because they felt sorry for me because no one else would give me a gig. I am trying to overcome that attitude.
I have been drumming since I was young and you think that would give people an inkling that I’ve got some talent.
Andrew, giving a drum lesson via Skype
You’ve been a big promoter of ours on social media. Do you see any parallels between Can-Do-Musos and Gig Buddies?
I can see us working together where we can put on some gigs. We can work in partnership – that’s what I can see in the future. For the time being I am happy offering a hand in getting your word out there.
In your words, how important is it to have an initiative such as Gig Buddies available in Sydney?
I think it’s really important. So many people don’t want to go to a gig with their carer or with someone dressed up like their nurse. I think Gig Buddies is an amazing idea and I can see it really working well.
For anyone looking at getting involved with Can-Do-Musos, check out www.candomusos.com. Additionally, to find out about drumming lessons, his gigs and the rest of Andrew's handy work, go to: www.drummerstix.com.au
Gig Buddies Sydney Social Media Coordinator