PHOTOS: JEFF FORMAN
Jamey Haddad is one of those names that maybe you’ve heard of, or maybe not. His name doesn’t ring out like a Vinnie or a Ringo or a Buddy, but Jamey Haddad has “been there and done that” as much or more than many of the drummers and percussionists those of us in our chosen profession or avocation know as household names. I would go to the point of calling him one of the backbones of World Percussion. He’s worked with more big names and important musicians than probably eighty percent of all working drummers/percussionists. His musical associations have included: Paul Simon, Esperanza Spaulding, Sting, Danilo Perez, Fred Hersch, Meryl Streep, Yo-Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw, Herbie Hancock, Paul Winter, Dave Liebman, Simon & Garfunkel, Nancy Wilson, Carly Simon, Joe Lovano, Joanne Brackeen, Betty Buckley, Glenn Velez, and The New York Voices to name a few. The friends he knows on a first name basis are amongst the musical elite.
For Jamey, music isn’t solely about performing. He’s known as a premier educator with much of his teaching time spent at the New England Conservatory of Music, The Cleveland Music Institute and Berklee College of Music. For the past many years, Jamey has been Professor of World Percussion at the legendary Oberlin Conservatory where he and faculty partner Jay Ashby, in addition to their regular teaching activities, have created and run the PI program [Performance and Improvisation], an innovative approach to integrating jazz and classical student musicians into each other’s realms. Jamey is also the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship as well as three Performance Grants from the National Endowment For The Arts.
Jamey Haddad is deep; he’s spiritual. When talking with him, one gets the feeling of actually communicating with a kind of Guru of Percussion. For Jamey, it’s almost less about the physics of percussion, like metronomic time, independence and technique, and more about finding a more earthy, culturally correct, from-the-heart, feel-it place to dwell in musically. He is what I might describe as a human version of a very fine, well-worn old K Zildjian cymbal; the sound coming from them both is so filled with heart, soul and emotion.
Jamey and I have been friends for a number of years, I think due to my own drum set and percussion obsession and my close proximity to Oberlin. We just seemed to hit it off from the very beginning. While he is all business when it comes to all things percussion, he’s also just one of the nicest guys I have ever known. He’s always got a smile and a good word for everyone he interacts with.
In kicking around some ideas of who I might next interview for Drumhead, Jamey seemed an obvious choice. While this is indeed an interview meant to show the many sides of Jamey Haddad, it’s really more of just a conversation between a couple of friends talking about the musical things dear to us.
So, get ready to explore the brain of one of the leading percussionists of our time.