To emerge from a dissatisfying period of his life, Tyler Birch is drumming up some good vibes and sharing it with Ohio State’s campus.
Ohio State students and staff may have seen Birch performing solo on his drum set on the Oval for two to three hours or more a few times since his first performance there on Aug. 12, but what many may not realize is that Birch has only recently begun lugging his drum set around the campus area and playing in open spaces.
Birch was a second-year in jazz studies at Capital University before he decided to take a break and work on being a better version of himself.
“I’m taking a semester or a year off because I got through my sophomore year and I didn’t really know what I was doing, why I was getting a degree,” Birch said.
On Saturday night, Birch set up a band on the pavement outside Apollo’s Greek Kitchen on North High Street with a vocalist, a keyboardist and a bassist he knew from Capital University.
“We were loud, but police officers will drive by, slow down and roll down their windows and sound their car horns, give us a thumbs up and drive away,” Birch said. “At a certain point, around 2 a.m., the cops on their bikes will just come and stop and listen.”
That night, Birch and his band played an array of Justin Timberlake, Nelly and dance music. People leaving the clubs and the bars were quick to join in and move with the band.
Besides using his drums, he uses cowbells, a tambourine, sambago bells and any extra musical instrument to go along with his performance. He prides himself as a huge follower of Timberlake’s music, and said he purchased the sambago bells solely because he wanted to perform “SexyBack” for people.
“I always wanted to start a Justin Timberlake cover band, but no one wanted to join me,” Birch said, sounding perplexed. “I finally got to use this on Saturday, and people went nuts because it was exactly like the recording.”
Andrea Lee, a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D) student, heard him drumming from afar on the Oval the first day Birch was there and went up to speak with him about his love for music. Birch and Lee later scheduled to play together outside Apollo’s Greek Kitchen.
“He is wise beyond his years and he is really talented,” Lee said. “He has such a wonderful heart and he is willing to share his talent and music with anybody.”
Birch started playing drums when he was 3 years old. His father was a drummer and they had a drum set in the basement. One day, Birch sat down and started hitting the bass drum with his foot, and he loved how the bass vibrated in the basement.
“Rhythm has always been a big part of me,” Birch said. “It wasn’t just about the sounds but organizing them into a coercive rhythm.”
Speaking extensively about a dark, uninspiring period in his life, Birch said getting out in public instead of playing his drums in the basement has helped him make the kind of connection he said he needs to become whole again.
“When I drum, I usually have my head down and I close my eyes unless I have an audience where I want to emote to them,” Birch said. “It’s about expressing yourself, and it’s not that you don’t care about anybody else, but you just focus on yourself.”
Birch hopes to be able to perform during the Short North Arts District Gallery Hop or along North High Street next week.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: Sept. 10, 2013
An earlier version of this story stated that Andrea Lee was a PhD student in pharmacy. In fact, Lee is a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D) student.