The Magic Of Drum Camps: Interview with Aldo Mazza of KOSA Music
Kosa Music’s summer camp is one of the longer-running drum camps in the country. This year's event, the 16th annual International Percussion Festival, Drum Camp, and Festival is coming up July 26th through the 31st at Castleton State College in Vermont. With that in mind we sat down with camp director Aldo Mazza to find out what makes Kosa drum camp a unique learning experience.
Aldo has an extensive background as an educator at McGill, University of Montreal and other schools in addition to an extensive touring and recording background. He has appeared o n more than 100 recordings with artists such as Celine Dion, Aldo Nova, James Brown, Chris DeBurgh, David Amran, Alain Caron as well as major symphony orchestras including the Montreal Symphony, SMCQ (Quebec Contemporary Music Organization), and Jazz Festivals including the Montreal Jazz Festival,Hong Kong Arts Festival, and other world class events. He is a well-known clinician in classical percussion, world music, and drum set, and his interest in all forms of percussion is part of what makes the Kosa music program so wide-ranging, encompassing drum set, hand percussion, mallet instruments, and a variety of genres.
DRUM! What gets you excited about this year’s camp?
Aldo: Kosa is a model of living and working with the masters in a contemporary environment. We try and have the top artists at the workshop each year. We have a chance to go beyond the classroom. Artists live with us and eat with us and sit together all day long. We really get to live the experiences of the great artists.
DRUM! Who is on the bill this year?
Aldo:So this year we have Jimmy Cobb [Cobb played on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, generally regarded as the most important and influential jazz album of all time.] Spending a week with Jimmy Cobb, going to a lesson with Jimmy is great, playing is great, but also you get the stories that can only come out in person. You get to know the context and history that puts the music in a whole new light. These people become friends and your real connection to the music world.
We’ve also got another legend, Carmine Appice as well as many great players. Carmine was there in the beginning of rock; he’s the closest thing to a John Bonham. He’s a great educator and great communicator, so you get that insight. Plus there are more than a dozen other great instructors, all pros.
DRUM! What do you think is the big takeaway of the camp?
Aldo: It also goes back to living and learning 360. You don’t just learn drum set. You see all the other parts of percussion. If you’re a drum set player you get some knowledge of classical, Brazilian, hand percussion and other styles and you learn how it all relates. and what is a precursor to something else.
DRUM!You also have concerts every night.
Aldo:Musical relationships start here. We used to record live CDs of each performance. Now we make DVDs. The first time Horacio Hernandez and Giovanni Hidalgo were there they performed a duet that was beautiful. When we went to edit it there was one piece that was 21 minutes long. I was stumped on how to cut it and edit it. It was too good. Every year there are magical nights. Clayton Cameron and Giovanni played one time and the standing ovation went on forever. When Joe Morello was there we invited musicians to play with him in the concert and they played all the old Brubeck numbers like “Take Five” and it really took everybody back. These were magical moments.
DRUM!What level of students should attend?
Aldo: All levels. All students are perfect. It is my opinion that if someone is an advanced player or just a beginner this is a place to start. It’s how I started. I was a rock drummer when I went to my first camp and I got turned on to classical and jazz and all these things I did not understand. So if you want understanding and the tools this is the place to start. Really, my first vibraphone lesson at a class was with Gary Burton. Joe Morello was at that camp too and when people talked about trading fours or swinging I had no idea what they were saying. So when I came back I was on a whole different planet and suddenly I could see where I was going and I was in a much better position of understanding.
That’s what can happen for any student at Kosa, regardless of how advanced they are. Classes are given at beginner and advanced or professional levels.