By Kenny Kerner

How many female drummers can you name? I can think of Karen Carpenter and Sheila E. and that's about it. Until now. This month's Passenger Profile member, Dawn Hafner is a drummer.

This is quite an unusual story. To begin with, Dawn has no musical background at all. Though she admits to "banging on tables and things" all her life, she didn't start playing drums until her late twenties. You see, her horse died and Dawn was kinda looking for another hobby — another something to do to occupy her time. "I started playing in my late twenties and had no education and no training. It was just not acceptable for females to play drums when I was growing up. I tried getting into school bands but they always told me I couldn't do that because I was a female. I just started with a How To video and a pair of sticks."

Dawn's dream was to ride in the olympics, but when her horse died, her dreams were dashed. "I was never allowed to have a drum set or sticks as a kid but I remembered that I was always going around banging on table tops all over the house. So, I had a little money saved up and figured I'd buy a drum set."

Before Dawn knew what was happening, she got into a band. And before she could even get good with the band, she found herself in the recording studio recording a full-length CD that went on to get into heavy rotation on college stations on the Eat Coast. "All of this put a lot of pressure on me because I really didn't know how to play well yet. Because I didn't know how to play, it forced me to practice between five and eight hours every day. So whenever I wasn't working or sleeping, I would practice."

Dawn joined TAXI in 2000 and, to date, has somewhere between 30-40 forwards and a deal with Global Graffiti for almost 50 of her songs. But what puzzled me was that throughout the entire interview, Dawn never once mentioned songwriting. Hmmm. Very peculiar! What's up with that?

Kerner: Where did the songwriting part of your career come in?

Hafner: The songwriting didn't come in until right before I joined TAXI.

Kerner: So for how long were you just playing drums?

Hafner: Ten to twelve years.

Kerner: So you played drums from about 1988 until 2000 and didn't write one single song during that time?

Hafner: Not one.

Kerner: Are you serious?

Hafner: Yeah. A few lyrics here and there but nothing ever finished; nothing ever complete. That first band I was in when we did the CD, my friend taught me a lot about being a sound engineer. So a big part of writing music for films is getting the mix right. I learned a lot from observing other people recording in the studio. You're sitting there waiting for them to finish but you learn a little bit.

Kerner: You still need some kind of format for putting together the parts of a song.

Hafner: A lot of it is sequencing and stuff. I write songs digitally. Loops, samples, you know. A lot of times libraries don't want lyrics.

Dawn joined TAXI because she saw the many ads that were placed in music magazines. She joined almost immediately and during her second week of sending in material, she received her first Forward. "As well as opening doors for me, TAXI is a good way for me to learn. It was my education. I figured that if I was going to learn how to do it [to write songs]. I might as well learn how to do it right, from the start."

The TAXI critiques also helped Dawn learn. In fact, a lot of the work she's getting now is similar to the listings in TAXI. "Pretty much my entire education came from TAXI and Dispatch. Writing for various styles, the pressure, the deadlines... I learned from all of it."

And it appears she learned well. Dawn has a very cool deal with Global Graffiti — kind of an open door deal. She works closely with the president who also gives her writing tips. To date, Dawn has one song placed in the World Wrestling Entertainment TV series Tough Enough and another song in UPN-TVs The Haunted. As for the new Fall TV season, Dawn already has 15 songs in consideration.

What I really enjoyed about doing this interview was that Dawn was totally realistic and completely open to learning. She knows her limitations and wants to always improve. And that's where TAXI came to the rescue:

"I think whoever wants to get into this business as a career should join TAXI first. You need to get the honest feedback and the entire education they can give you. With TAXI there is a financial commitment and, to do it right, a time commitment. And if you can't make those commitments with TAXI then you can't make the commitment as a professional musician."

So, given all of this, is Dawn Hafner finished learning? No way. She started a web radio so she can stay on top of all styles of music being played and hone her writing skills." As Dawn puts it, the key is to always improve. And remember — we're here to help!

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