Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

September/October 2016: Robi Botos

Kevin Waters

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Kevin Waters is one of the busiest young drummers in the city. Both musicians and audiences are drawn to his creativity, skill, and energy. He grew up in Dayton Ohio, attended an arts high school, and eventually came to Winnipeg a few years back to study. One of the things I love about Kevin’s playing is that you can not only hear but also see both his intense focus and his playful spirit when he’s at the drums. He’s inventive, animated, frank, and funny, on stage and off.

When did you start playing the drums?

My mom always told me I have been playing drums since I could hold my head up but I didn’t get my first drum set until the Christmas I was four. My grandpa walked in with this little red kit and it’s been about drums ever since.

What’s hardest and what’s best about playing drums?

The hardest part of the instrument changes depending on what I’ve been playing lately. If a situation arises where I need to play at 320 bpm but I haven’t really been practicing up-tempo, then playing that fast has just become a problem—I usually want to address it asap! The best part? I guess I get the most satisfaction from sharing my energy with my friends on stage.

How did you find your way to the Jazz Studies program at the U of M?

I found my way here through Derrick Gardner who said he might be able to help me go to school if I wanted. And seeing that I was working as a dishwasher and dealing with a recent run-in with trigger-happy authority figures, I figured it was time to go.

Derrick is one of my biggest idols for sure. The first time I met him, I was fifteen and he was giving a clinic to the big band at my high school. At one point, he took out his horn and played along with us. I was blown away—I had never been in the same room with a musician of that caliber! After the clinic, our big band director, Claude Thomas, gave me a copy of Derrick’s CD and I listened to it every day. I did the same thing for the record he released after that too.

Studying at this level is a big change from dishwashing. What have you learned?

Well, one thing I’ve realized is how self-destructive I am. Even with the opportunities I have been given in the past few years from those who believe in me, I have managed to put those opportunities in danger and risked losing the faith of my friends and colleagues. I’m working on it.

Who’s on your playlist at the moment?

My playlist? Wow. I like to think of the albums that make their way into my life as new friends—or old friends who show up exactly wwhen I need them most. Currently that would be The In Sound by Eddie Harris, Life of Pablo by Kanye West, and All N’ All by Earth, Wind & Fire.

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