When you begin life thumping your leg in the crib, it’s not surprising that you start drum lessons at age 5. By age 9, Brandon Draper was sitting in with his dad’s (Paul Draper) band, then touring at 14, and the rest, as they say, is history. He has performed with the New Mexico and Santa Fe Symphony Orchestras, Kansas City Symphony, Ottmar Liebert, DJ Logic, Donna Summer, Steve Coleman, Mike Moreno, Bobby Watson, Kevin Hays, Particle, and Quixotic Fusion.
In Kansas City, he performs with The Draper Family Band and Ensemble Iberica. After many years of touring and performing in every genre, he now runs the acclaimed children’s interactive music program Drum Safari and teaches drum set, world percussion, and music business at the University of Kansas. draperama.com and drumsafari.org
Is there a music gene that runs in your family? You and your father Paul form The Draper Family Band. You and your wife Teryn offer the children’s interactive program Drum Safari—involving your own children. Did you know early on that music, and especially percussion, would be your field?
Absolutely. My father was a touring musician and recording session artist when I was born. Dad had a studio in our home and encouraged the idea of making a living as a musician. I vividly remember knowing for sure that I would be a musician and possibly a professor at age 7. Dad was recently inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame, and we are working on a full-length debut release of the Draper Family Band.
The Drum Safari program my wife and I founded performs and educates at libraries across the country.
You are part of Ensemble Iberica and have also recorded Turkish jazz and performed American hip-hop. What role does percussion play in achieving the “flavor” of the world’s music?
Percussion defines the music of many world cultures and is at the root of many genres. In Ensemble Iberica, we produce concerts of specific indigenous music. It is so important that a musician does everything in their power to study and represent the music in the most authentic way. When I was living in New Mexico, I learned an incredible amount about the respect, honor, and study that must go in before one can authentically represent music from cultures they were not born into. For me, this is an insatiable passion, the endless pursuit of studying instruments and music of the world.
Teaching at the KU School of Music, recording, playing, producing—how do you keep all those musical balls in the air?
My wife Teryn runs our business Looking UP Productions Inc., which oversees most of our work outside of KU. We also homeschool our kids so our lives are completely and beautifully intertwined. I have a home studio where I am currently working on some very exciting projects by local and national artists. One project is a singer songwriter, another is hip-hop/r&b, another is pop with Middle Eastern percussion. I also produce audio and video for a local church that I very much enjoy.
What is it about the Kansas City area that inspires or nurtures your musical career?
First and foremost, it was the Kansas City jazz scene that drew me in. There is a relaxed vibe here and you can be anywhere in about 30 minutes (unlike the East Coast). There are incredibly talented musicians and visual artists moving here almost every month. There is diversity in culture if you are open and looking for it. I’m also involved in music for meditation and work with local yoga studios, churches, and synagogues.
My career in higher education started when Bobby Watson hired me to teach drums at UMKC, which led to my eventual full-time job at KU. The balance of teaching college, being based in the center of the country (great for touring), and the eclectic artist landscape makes Kansas City great for my family and inspiring new projects.