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Written by Patrick Chavis

The beating heart of a musical is the rhythmic sound you hear from the band– otherwise known as The Beat. There is by far no section more important or less embraced than the band’s rhythm section, especially in a musical. The reason for this is simple– when a rhythm section messes up, it’s obvious in the extreme…but if they’re doing their job correctly, the drummer is an invisible timepiece for the performers.

Here comes the drums

I was fully struck by the reality of this truth the night I attended The Toxic Avenger the Musical at the Maverick Theatre in Fullerton. I was there with my wife to review. This is the story of a superhero zombie who is blessed (cursed?) with powers and an ugly complexion after being dumped into a vat of toxic waste.

I called the Maverick the next day because I wanted to know more about the ensemble. I was informed that Sho Fujieda had been on the drums that night. His name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I looked through a few of my old theatre booklets (the benefits of never throwing anything away), and his name popped up. Fujieda acted as the drummer (or, more accurately, the entire percussion section) in the Fullerton Community College production of Parade–yet another great show that made you feel like you were listening to a full pit and not just one person with a few drums.

From Tokyo to Brea!

Fujieda was born in Tokyo but was raised and lived in Orange County (specifically the city of Brea) for most of his life. He comes from a musical family and was introduced to piano and singing lessons at a young age, but it didn’t exactly take.

“I liked music, but I was at the puberty age where my voice was starting to crack really high you know. So, I took a break from that,” Fujieda explained.

Fujieda started drumming around January 1997 and received his first drum kit from a friend of the family.

“They offered us the drum kit, and I was like, sure. They only charged me a couple hundred dollars, and my mom bought it. So, my mom said, ‘Why don’t you try drums for a month and see what happens?’ I was doing it for a month, and BAM picked it up really good, and it was fun. It was just one of those things that just happened. It made sense.”

From then on, Fujieda was hooked and started taking lessons at Mo’s Music in Fullerton per his mother’s (Sarah Fujieda) suggestion.

“At the time, the drum teacher there was Randy Carr, and he played around in different things. So, I took one month with him, and I said, ‘I got to continue because this is so fun.’ I took lessons with him (Randy Carr) privately for about three or four years, learning different varieties of songs because he would chart out all the songs for the students, learn the chart verbatim, and then mince beats in between. Unfortunately, (Randy Carr) got sick out of the blue, Fujieda explained.”

“It shocked me (Randy Carr’s passing). But it drove me to play better.”

Donn Hallman was the band director leading Sho’s concert band, which in 1998 only consisted of about ten students. At the time, Hallman needed a drummer, and he already knew Sho’s sister, Miki, because she had played the flute for him earlier. Sho seized his opportunity and joined the group.

“I thank him for much of what I do now because that concert band material was not made for a drum set, but since I was the only drummer, he basically let me explore and elaborate on the parts we were given. So it was very similar to what musical theatre drummers have to do, where they have to constantly switch instruments, constantly switching tones and styles left and right.”

Sho mentioned that although he was aware of musicals like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, he never considered playing for one until college.

“In 2004, I started Fullerton Jr. College, and I was in concert band over there with Dr. Mazzaferro, and he was teaching me his vast knowledge of information that he still teaches students till this day.”

Through a saxophone player in a concert band, Sho learned that the Maverick was looking for a drummer for the play Cabaret. Sho accepted the gig, met with music director Dean Anderson and performed his first show for the Maverick in June 2006.

“They were looking for anybody, so I lucked out,” Fujieda smiled.

After the run of Cabaret, Dean introduced Sho to the Orange County Symphony. Dean was the conductor in 2006, and Sho is still playing with them ten years later.

“That opened a lot of doors for me,” Fujieda Said.

A year after his first musical theatre show, Brian Newell, owner of the Maverick Theatre, called Sho to play in Urinetown. And that led to him drumming for the next performance…and another..and another until Sho became the set drummer for the Maverick Theatre.

“I’ve done some impossible things I thought I never could do,”-Sho Fujieda.

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