This month, we are spotlighting Mauricio de Souza, one of our most successful Drum Teachers. We’re fortunate for having Mauricio on board, and can’t wait to share with you the interview we had with him.
How old were you when you started your formal music education and what made you choose percussion? I started learning to play drums at age 11. My first teacher was Ricardo Gianetti in my hometown of Brasília, Brasil. Within a few months, I began playing in a cover band with friends from school. Later, I joined the youth percussion ensemble at the Teatro Nacional Cláudio Santoro. From 1991 to 1997 I played in numerous rock cover bands, ranging from the Beatles, to Pearl Jam, to Rush, to Metallica, Pantera,... Eventually, I became interested in Fusion (mix of jazz with rock). Always looking to forward my studies, I took a summer course with Brazilian classical percussionist Ney Rosauro in 1996 and came to the US in 1997 to study with jazz drummer Joe Morello.
You have a degree in Jazz percussion, but you also have classical training. What are the benefits that you’ve experienced in getting trained in both fields? Jazz combines numerous elements from classical music and (today) world music, allowing individual artistic expression through improvisation. As a professional musician, I want to be the best I can be. By studying and performing in both fields alongside musicians equally devoted to their craft, I get exposed to a wealth of ideas, techniques, and unique musical expressions which allow me to keep growing as a musician. Also, the more versatile a musician is, the more work one can do. In my experience, classical and jazz training have given me the foundation to be able to play any style of music I want or need to and to become the musician I want to be.
You often perform in some world-renowned venues. What’s it like to perform at the “Blue Note” in NYC? I’ve been lucky to be able to perform as a band leader in such venues as Blue Note, NJPAC, and this October, at the Québec International Jazz Festival in Canada. [The Blue Note is] my favorite jazz club and the place where all of my heroes have performed.
There is a new CD you released recently. Tell us a bit about it. My new album, “Trajetórias”, was recorded live at Galeria West in Westfield in May of this year. We have performed there numerous times over the years, it’s one of my favorite venues to perform in. It’s a very intimate and naturally artistic venue. This is my third commercial album as a band leader. I recorded nine tracks with my Brazilian jazz group, Bossa Brasil. The music features my arrangements of compositions by Tom Jobim, Milton Nascimento, Hermeto Pascoal, and Pat Metheny. The group is a quartet/quintet with Dmitry Baevsky on alto sax, Jerry Weir on vibes, Bob Rodriguez on keyboard, Gary Mazzaroppi on acoustic bass, and myself on drums. The album is available at live performances and online at Pandora (in a few months), iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, CD Baby, and most online music sites.
You are a kind and patient teacher and your drum lesson students love working with you. What is your #1 tool to motivate them to practice? :-) I love working with my students at HAA! They are all unique in their learning styles and interests and it’s a pleasure to watch them grow. My #1 tool to motivate my students to practice is always focusing on their interests. As a teacher I feel it’s my responsibility to show them how to play the instrument but I also feel it’s my responsibility to help them achieve their musical goals. I may expose them to different techniques but I don’t like to force anyone to study something they’re not interested in. I think the best learning happens in a friendly and relaxed environment.
What do you enjoy about being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community? I enjoy all aspects of being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community. I thoroughly enjoy interacting with the students and parents, they’re all dedicated to making the most of their experience at HAA. The staff is very friendly and professional. I feel HAA is dedicated to constant growth and improvement in providing the best learning musical environment possible. And I love that about the school.