At only 8 years old, Alex Shumaker might be the youngest musician to rock a local crowd during Thunder in the Valley weekend.
Since his recent viral Internet debut, the self-taught drummer has gained notoriety in western Pennsylvania circuits and the classic rock circle. He took the Richland Bike Bash stage Saturday afternoon to play a guest set with local rock band Inside Out.
A boy of few words, the Punxsutawney native can’t rightly describe what it is about percussion or the iconic rockers he emulates that keeps the sticks in his hand. It would appear as if the instrument chose him instead.
Shumaker’s mother, Brooke, said he became fascinated with Journey drummer Deen Castronovo after watching one of the band’s DVDs. He’s been nested behind his professional, multipiece drumset since he was just 5 years old.
“I just started beating on a ball and I broke my mom’s kitchen utensils,” he said shamelessly.
“All of them,” Brooke added with a wry smile.
Just hours after the incident, Alex’s grandmother recommended they buy a drum kit for the tyke, who was 5 years old at the time. The rest was rock ’n’ roll.
His seemingly inherent skill has earned him the respect of many of his adored classic rock idols. In fact, many can’t resist letting him up on the concert stage to play a few bars.
“He’s been on stage with Jefferson Starship – they see him (at their shows) and take him up (on stage),” Brooke said. “Last night, we went to see Journey – we know a lot of their people now – and (a handler) took him up so they could see him.
“(Castronovo is) the guy that inspires him.”
An amateur video the Shumakers made, in which Alex lip syncs Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero,” won a submission contest held by the band, in the vein of “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon’s celebrity lip sync battles. See Alex’s winning video entry on TribDem.com.
Before long, the kid was playing John Bonham grooves, backed up by Foreigner’s Brian Tichy and Whitesnake’s Michael Devin on an informal cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” Video from that jam session can also be found on TribDem.com.
Alex said Led Zeppelin is one of his favorite metal bands, followed by Metallica – old school “Master of Puppets” Metallica, that is. He said he’d like to make a living off his music someday. He said he also plans to split that time in Major League Baseball, in typical 8-year-old boy fashion.
Inside Out guitarist Jay Snyder, who is friends with Alex’s father, thought it would be a novel thrill to showcase the young talent during Thunder weekend.
“He makes you want to quit playing,” he said. “Because at the age I’m at, I’m not anywhere close to what he’s doing. Get your camera, make sure your shoes are tight enough because they’re going to fly off. He’s good.”
Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @JustinDennis.