Friday, May 06, 2011

Student Artist Profile: Jonathan Dana — Keeping the beat

Jonathan Dana, a senior at Fryeburg Academy, plays drums in the academy’s jazz band, which has won numerous awards both at state competitions and at Berklee. His father, Michael Dana, is the film teacher at the academy and has worked in the film industry. This gave Jonathan access to equipment most kids don't get to use.
When did you get into drumming?
Basically when Mr. LaCasce told me to play drums. I was in middle school, sixth grade, and I was interested in drums. I started in fifth grade just banging on stuff and then in sixth grade Mr. LaCasce said ‘Why don’t you play in MOJO’ which was then the Molly Ockett Jazz Orchestra. Molly Ockett was the middle school I went to. That was how I started and I have been playing for him ever since.
When did you start seeing that you were getting to a really proficient level?
Freshman year I knew it was a serious program because you’re seeing the people that are coming out as seniors. I was like “Wow, I’m really going to have work to get to this level.” That’s when I got serious about it and I went to camp. At Camp Encore I really learned a lot about playing jazz drums. That’s where it kind of fueled all my inspiration for playing during the school year — that all started at camp. I went to camp every year since and it just got better and better and you just keep on playing and eventually you get better no matter what you do.
Is it jazz drumming specifically that you play or do you play other kinds of music?
Yeah, there is a rock program there too, but the jazz program is much bigger and that’s where all the awards come from and stuff like that. So, I guess jazz drumming is more my forte.
What has it been like getting all these accolades with the jazz groups?
It is just overwhelming. You become desensitized to it all. You know it is another first place win, great, what else is new? It is baffling how this little small town, Fryeburg, Maine can produce such amazing music. It is really quite fantastic.
What are all the award that you’ve received?
Just this year alone, we’ve won first place for Berklee, second place in big band, first place in combo, which I was in, first place in vocal jazz, and that’s all the state. Berklee was first place for vocal jazz and that’s a national competition.
Do you have any desire to continue performing music outside of school?
Yes, it is definitely one of my passions. I don’t think I want to go into it for a living just because it is so hard to make a living playing any kind of instrument, but it is so much fun. I love it. And to get to the level where you are proficient enough to just get up and go and play. It is just great to jam with people, so I find a lot of joy in that.
Do you have any interest in forming your own band or creating your own music?
Yeah, I’m writing stuff actually on Logic [Studio] on the computer and I have a huge 88-key midi keyboard and I make beats actually. Just cool — not just rhythms, but sounds too, almost like a hip hop beat. Now I am going into writing songs with lyrics. I just won a poetry contest in Conway just last night, so that helps to write good lyrics. I am really interested. I play guitar, a little bit of trumpet and piano. I just like to fool around and see what I come up with.
Now with your father, have you done any sort of experimentation into film?
Oh, absolutely. Since I was a very small child I’ve always been very interested in that because it has just always been around and really high quality stuff.  It has been really easy to have access to the best kind of HD video camcorders and stuff like that. I am actually just finishing a project called “A Small World” by Jonathan Dana. We have a lot international boarding students that come to Fryeburg Academy and I interviewed about 10 or 11 of those kids about their culture and what it is like in their country and the differences. Now I am compiling it and trying to fit it all down to 10 minutes. I am at 25 minutes right now, so I have to cut in half somehow, but it is a lot of good material. That’s going to be done in the next couple weeks.
What are you hoping to do after graduation?
I am going to Clark University. I sent in my enrollment. I think I am going to study cultural studies. I just went to China with a friend and stayed at his apartment in Shanghai and I was just really interested in the differences in culture and how to relate. How like some Chinese may find it rude to even wear shorts in public. Stuff that Americans would never know. I think, since I already have a little kick start on knowing a little bit of Chinese culture, why not go further and learn about all the cultures. I think that’ll be really interesting.
How do you think you might combine your interests in culture and music and film in the future?
Well, that’s the thing. I’m trying. I’m trying to find a way to do that. I’m doing it right now with the movie actually. Because I’m also writing the score to the movie as well, or the short film I should say. It is just like a little piano riff, guitar thing, no vocals, but it is a cool start and I combined all my talents there. But I’ll see what else I can do on a professional level.
Well, I guess that’s it, unless you have any other thoughts on what you do or your aspirations for the future.
I hope to make the world a better place, somehow, so I’ll start that my first year out of college.

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