Junior Dean Sin­clair plays drums in five campus ensembles and two student bands. Dean Sin­clair | Courtesy

Junior Dean Sin­clair used to drum on pots and pans when he was a kid. While his parents noticed he was playing in time, they assumed that was just some­thing kids did — until Sinclair’s younger brother started doing the same thing, without Dean’s sense of rhythm.

“My parents were always lis­tening to music around the house,” Sin­clair said. “I heard noise, so I tried to make noise back.”

After 16 years of making noise, Sinclair’s natural sense of rhythm has made him a beloved member of the pep band, jazz combo, orchestra, per­cussion ensemble, and Big Band. He also plays for rock bands August Hotel and Deaf Davy and the Wineboxes.

“Often­times, he may have never even heard the song that we’re cov­ering,” Deaf Davy and the Wineboxes singer junior Mark Naida said, “And based on the pro­gres­sions and the rhythms of the guitars, he can pick up what the drum’s sup­posed to be and often­times he’s right. He just has an amazing ear for it.”

Rock music is Sinclair’s favorite thing to play, he said.

“Say a guitar player or piano player is playing some­thing,” Sin­clair said. “I’m not able to make chords and notes the way we think of them, like scale-type things. So for me, it’s much more fun to play with those tonal instru­ments.”

His passion for rock music also inspires his fellow musi­cians, Naida said.

“It’s Dean’s joy that comes through a lot of the time,” Naida said. “As a singer, I’m singing and then I hear him, this whisper in the back­ground because he’s screaming over the drum set, and he knows all the words to all the songs and I never do.  He’s one of the greatest musi­cians I’ve ever met and just has such a love for it.”

When Sin­clair first came to Hillsdale, he knew he couldn’t bring his drums with him, and for the first time since he was 6, he wasn’t sure he would be able to play, according to Naida.

“One time he was speaking about how, coming to Hillsdale, he wouldn’t have his drum set,” Naida said. “And he started kind of tearing up over that, that there could be some limits on him doing the thing that he loves to do most in the world.”

Sinclair’s head snaps up and down as he plays, keeping time with the music and getting the audience engaged.

“I’m doing my best to be a showman, so I’m trying to be moving around and to be as visual as pos­sible,” he said. “The other guys, they get to stand, they get to move around … I’m trying to do my best to get an audience involved, or as hyped as I can from sitting in the back, where it’s probably dif­ficult to see me sitting down.”

Sin­clair also plays with rock band August Hotel, made up of guys from his hometown near Chicago, Illinois. When Sin­clair won a middle-school talent com­pe­tition for a drum solo, the judges con­nected him with Ryan Lammers, who took third in the com­pe­tition for a guitar solo. The judges sug­gested the two boys jam together sometime, and their parents exchanged phone numbers.

The drummer and lead gui­tarist for August Hotel have been playing together ever since. After working together for almost 10 years, Sin­clair and Lammers have an instinctive recog­nition of each other’s style, Lammers said.

“We’ll be working on a new song, and we’ll kind of be playing through it for the first time, and fig­uring out our parts, and we’ll instinc­tively go for the same kind of feel at the same time,” Lammers said. “We just know what should happen there … I’ve played with other drummers for various things and it just feels weird, because it never syncs up the same way.”

The band is cur­rently working on recording an extended play, or EP, a short album which fea­tures four songs. Sin­clair said he wrote two of the four.

Staying involved with August Hotel while at a college more than three hours away has been dif­ficult, Sin­clair said. But he still travels home to play for gigs, and is helping to create the EP.

“We just have to be con­scious of [Sinclair’s travel time] when we’re picking what we’re going to do,” Lammer said.

Sinclair’s passion and skill have been a huge asset to campus music as well, Pep Band Director senior Hank Prim said.

“His skills are off the charts,” Prim said. “He’s a phe­nomenal musician to work with, because he knows what he need to do and he knows how to do it. I can ask Dean, ‘Hey, can we aim for some­thing more like this?’ And he just does it … he’s just super in tune to what’s going on and can use his instrument to drive the rest of the band too. His humor is infec­tious, everyone loves him, and obvi­ously everyone looks up to him greatly because he’s an awesome musician and an awesome drummer.”

  • Fri­dayNightEcon

    How can someone make such good music from just a box? And he’s just a nice guy to hang around with, too.