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Auburn Hills drummer is finalist in worldwide competition

Drummer doesn't even have own kit

Stephen Mixson
Stephen Mixson

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – He can play the drums to country, rock and gospel music.

Stephen Mixson, 22, of Auburn Hills, has a passion for playing. Mixson is so good that he is a top-four finalist out of thousands of entries in the worldwide Drummer of Tomorrow competition.

Believe it or not, Mixson doesn't even own his own drum kit.

"I've been through a lot of kits when I was younger, I just wore them all out," Mixson said.

This past summer, Mixson entered the contest by sending a video of himself playing drums. He made the first cut, then the next and now, as a finalist, received an all-expense paid trip to California.

"This is where all the top music industry professionals go every year. I have begged my parents to attend this event since I was little. I never thought I would actually play at it," he said. "After about two weeks I totally forgot about the contest. Then I got an email saying I made the top 16 and I couldn't believe it."

So how does a drummer without a drum set prepare for one of the biggest moments of his life? His local church is his saving grace.

"Having the keys to the church is a big plus. I've played in the band here for years, so I get to practice whenever I want. These drums are my baby, but they're not mine.," he said.

For the final round of the competition, Mixson will play with a live California-based band and perform an opening solo. The winner receives two drum sets, a two-year Mapex artist endorsement and tuition to the Musician's Institute.

His mother couldn't be more proud.

"He's been banging things around the house since he was two. We never thought to get him a drum set, but he found a way to make his own," said Stephen's mother, Sherry Mixson. "First it started on pots and pans, then it went to my end tables and he would use the lamp shades and symbols. I'm his biggest fan."

Mixson graduated from Avondale High School in 2007. While his mother believes in her son's talent, she wants Stephen to get a "real job" just in case. Stephen has a backup plan. He's already graduated from Oakland Community College and is studying computer technology at Sienna Heights University.

But he says drumming will always be first in his life.

"I feel like in a way, I've already won. This is a dream come true of mine to play the drums across the country, this is my chance," he said.

He leaves for California Jan. 17.