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Oien triumphs after scary accident

September 18, 2010
By RENEE PRUSI Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - After the accident, Wayne Oien wasn't sure he'd ever be able to play the drums again.

But the Ishpeming native fought his way back to health. And his drums. He placed third in an international competition earlier this month and is already making plans to compete in the 2011 edition of the drum event.

The accident was a stunner: Oien and a friend were driving along U.S. 41 on their way to work at Baraga Max Prison on Father's Day, 2009 when it happened. The little car they were traveling in hit a moose.

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"The car was demolished and I had broken ribs, a broken palate and facial fractures," Oien said. "I had some doubt if I could perform drumming again after the accident."

Drumming has been a bit part of Oien's life for many years. He began playing at age 9 and has been involved in music ever since. He's part of a musical family, including his son, Paul, who is a bass guitarist; son, Adam, who is a trumpet player; and daughter, Jenny, also a trumpet player. His brother, Alan, has a degree in music and plays the bass harmonica.

Wayne Oien's never had formal lessons but took part in musical organizations and joined bands through the years.

Fact Box

On the web:

To see Wayne Oien's performance at the DCA Individuals in Rochester, N.Y.: watch?v=I59d4qCbuCg

To learn more about the Superior Pipes and Drums, the first bagpipe band in the Upper Peninsula:

"In 2002, a friend of mine, Ken Hiettiko, told me about a world championship snare drum competition in Pennsylvania," Oien said. "Because I had never competed in an individual competition before, I didn't think i had a chance of even placing.

"I thought 'just as long as I don't take last,'" Oien said. "Drummers from all over the world, including Switzerland, Canada, Japan and the United States had some of their best drummers represented. With my brother Alan's support, I entered the 2003 international rudimental drumming competition in Scranton, Pa., and placed fifth."

Oien said other competitors were friendly but he was asked the same question over and over: Who did you study with?

"I always said in response that I didn't study with anyone," he said. "So when I did so well, it was a surprise. I thought, 'wow.' I couldn't believe it. It was a dream come true being able to compete rudimentally with other drummers from around the world."

The performances are evaluated for originality, execution, showmanship, content and dynamics by an experienced panel of judges, Oien said. Points are subtracted for dropped sticks or control problems.

Since that inaugural competition in 2003, Oien has excelled in other events. He placed first in the Midwest Drumming Competition in DeKalb, Ill., in 2005. And in the DCA internationals, he took fourth in 2004; third in 2005; fourth in 2006; and 11th in 2007.

Because of a work conflict, he wasn't able to participate in the 2008 competition. Then the moose accident in 2009 derailed Oien from taking part that year.

But he wanted to try again, so he entered in the competition this year and took part in the event in Rochester, N.Y., on Sept. 3.

"The 2010 third place in Rochester was a real triumph for me," he said. "Especially after the disastrous 2009 accident."

Oien plans to compete in the DCA event in 2011, again in Rochester, N.Y. In the interim, he will continue to keep busy with music. Along with Pierre Ogea, he's a founder of the Upper Peninsula's first bagpipe band, Superior Pipes and Drums.

"I enjoy being involved with the bagpipe band because it gives me an opportunity to produce a full quality drumline and enjoy teaching area drummers of all ages," Oien said.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is



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