Keith Hall Gears up for 10th Annual Drum Camp


The Keith Hall Summer Drum Intensive, a camp designed for drummers at all skill levels, will present its 10th annual edition in June. Held at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, this event includes two weeklong camps focused on jazz drumming. There is a Beginning/Intermediate camp (June 13–18), followed by an Advanced camp (June 20–25).

The diverse array of students at KHSDI includes female and male musicians, with the youngest around age 11 and the oldest being senior citizens.

Tuition for the camp includes a meal plan, and students have the option to reside on campus. (Tuition balance is due on April 30.)

According to the KHSDI website, students “learn new music during rehearsals and performances with various professional rhythm sections, a vocalist, a horn player and a drum choir.”

Lessons are devoted to topics such as Jazz Rhythm Section Concepts. There are in-person master classes as well as special sessions conducted via Skype with jazz stars, which in the past have included Billy Hart, Carl Allen and Will Kennedy.

An annual highlight is the camp’s famous drum choir, which involves multiple drummers playing together as a drum-set ensemble.

Hall often recruits his bandmates in the trio TRI-FI (pianist Matthew Fries and bassist Phil Palombi) to perform at the camp, and each week climaxes with student concerts held at the Union Cabaret & Grille in downtown Kalamazoo.

The camp has grown tremendously since its first year. “In 2007,” Hall recalled, “the Summer Drum Intensive began with an idea and six students from southwest Michigan, along with one rhythm section and a vocalist in one room for three days. I mainly wanted to get a few students together so that I could distribute information to more than one student at a time and have an intense time of study and practice. I thought we could exchange ideas and have fun interacting.

“Fast-forward to our 10th annual,” Hall added, “and we are holding two separate weeks with 24 drummers each week. Over the last few years, we have not only continued to improve what we offer musically, but have [remained] focused on our four foundational pillars: musicianship; confidence; leadership; and health and fitness.

“Our goal is for students to not only experience a spectacular week of music—with enough information to digest for the next year—but to also walk away with a new perspective and be inspired to live life to the fullest. I have amazing musicians and teachers who come from New York City, Chicago, L.A., Miami and Detroit.”

Hall is proud to continue the drum choir concept, which he learned in the early 1990s, back when he was studying under Hart at Western Michigan University. “The drum choir is a drum-set ensemble usually consisting of four to 10 drummers,” Hall explained. “The group performs jazz standards and original compositions. We orchestrate the melody around the set, play form, imply harmony, and improvise individually and collectively.”

Hall frequently witnesses the musical growth of returning students from year to year. But he has also observed a student’s musical development from day to day during the week of the camp: “Some of my favorite moments are those times when a young student who has never played jazz gets onstage on the last night and performs for a packed house with the pros. [At that moment,] we all think about how far they’ve come that week.

“Some students have said they learned more in one week at KHSDI than they had learned in their entire life up to that point. Parents will talk of the transformation that has taken place in their son or daughter over the course of a week. Not only have they improved musically, but they have opened up as a person. [The camp experience] can affect other areas of their life in a very positive way.”

For more information, and to register for this year’s camps, visit the Keith Hall Music website.

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