When Chris Reid launched the Web site bangadrum.com in 1999, he thought he would be selling to drummers in places like Iowa and Alaska. But to his surprise, a client base quickly developed in Los Angeles. So he opened Bang a Drum Hand Drum Shop in 2003. He now has two employees, and his wife Shannon helps run the Los Angeles business. They sell about 500 drums a week, with two-thirds of the business at the shop and the other third over the Web site.

"We have 300 different kinds of drums from Africa, from India, Brazil, Native American drums, the Middle East. Some we import directly, others we get from other importers. The cheapest is probably about six bucks for a spinner drum from Peru, the most expensive is probably about $400 for a professional quality set from India.

"This is the store that I was always looking for and never found as a drummer. There are so many musical people in this city people from studios, composers and arrangers that are underserved in terms of high quality instruments that it just made sense.

"And I love what happens when people get together and play drums together, so I wanted a store where people could come and creatively express themselves. We have a free community drum circle and potluck dinner once a month. It brings out from 30 to 60 people every time.

"When you come to the drum circle you can use any instrument in the store. People wind up picking up shakers, bells rattles djembes, doumbeks that's a Middle Eastern goblet-shaped drum.

"There's always the trials and tribulations of importing. You order a particular quality and you get something that's about three shades less. I had to make three trips to India before they finally realized that I knew what I was doing and not to send me garbage. Every now and then they still try to test. You just have to stay diligent and follow up continually, that's just part of doing business as an importer.

"It's a lot of work, but it's definitely worth it when you see the smile on the face of a professional musician who's finally found professional quality gear or even a beginner who's found an instrument for the long haul.

"I also facilitate a team-building workshop and staff development workshops using drums all around the city, at UCLA, non-profits and businesses that want to get their employees communicating and working together as a team. Group drumming is a tremendously powerful metaphor for that. It emphasizes the crucial importance of working together as a team, and having fun, most of all.

"And I absolutely love every minute of what I do. There's nothing I'd rather be doing."

Steve Silkin

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