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Competing to the beat of his own drums

Former Lake Oswegan Chris Foster heads to Hollywood for a musical semifinal

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Chris Foster outplayed hundreds of drummers to make the semifinals of the Guitar Center Drum-Off. His goal: the national finals, which will take place Jan. 17 in Los Angeles.Chris Foster originally thought he wouldn’t make the quarterfinals of the 26th Annual Guitar Center Drum-Off. Once he got there, he wasn’t able to use his own equipment. And when he actually performed, he felt like he was not at his best.

But when the drumming ended on Oct. 21, Foster had won the quarterfinals in Portland. And after it was all over, he went into the corner of the big room and screamed — because this week, the 28-year-old former Lake Oswego resident will compete in the semifinals in Hollywood.

“The semifinals are going to be nothing short of amazing,” he said. “Not only do contestants play, but so do well-known drummers in the industry. I am excited at the opportunity to meet some of my heroes, as well as the prospect of being noticed.”

Foster’s rise to the top of the nation’s premier drum contest is the culmination of years of effort and disappointment in an event he first entered in 2003. Yes, he has gotten to the quarterfinals three times, but he has also gone six years without getting out of a Guitar Center store final.

Foster said he decided to become a career drummer in the fourth grade, and he had his first professional gig as a high school freshman. He moved to Las Vegas in 2002 and started playing in churches and with various acts around the Strip. In 2007, he moved to Lake Oswego and joined a wedding band called Pressure Point. Most importantly, he met the great saxophonist Dan Schauffler, also a Lake Oswego resident and one of his biggest influences.

From there, Foster became a stalwart on the Portland music scene, playing with Ramsey Embeck, Devin Philips and Dorado. Currently, he is developing three new bands — NOi, Hand Hammered and 3D — and teaching drums professionally in Beaverton.

In this year’s Guitar Center Drum-Off, it looked like the store final would once again be as far as Foster would get. He lost to Portland drummer Dennis Dove by two points on Sept. 30. But fate stepped in with some stunning news.

“The day of the quarterfinal, I received a call from a Guitar Center rep,” Foster said. “She asked me if I wanted to compete in the quarterfinals due to Dennis forfeiting for medical reasons. It turned out he had a heart attack.”

Almost literally, Foster dropped the phone and rushed to the Guitar Center store in Portland. But he arrived at the scene at a great disadvantage.

“I went there without any equipment of my own,” Foster said. “I actually used a pair of demo sticks from the floor. Keep in mind, I do practice a lot. Drums, music are a must-do every day. Being my own worst critic, I thought I was really off that night.”

Turns out, he was absolutely on.

Foster beat out hundreds of musicians from throughout the western United States, advancing through one competition after another. He could set his sights not only on the semifinals, but also on the national finals that will take place on Jan. 17, 2015, in Los Angeles.

He says he’s ready for whatever comes his way.

“As for winning or losing, I’m not as concerned,” he said. “I’m going to be who I am as a player. As long as I represent that with class and bring my A game to Hollywood, it won’t matter if I win or lose.”

For more about the Guitar Center Drum-Off, go to www.drumoff.guitarcenter.com.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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