From Motown to The Grammys

s a drummer for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s civic jazz program, the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center quintet, and his own Gordon Grady Quintet, there is no surprise to his mother that Detroiter Kayvon Gordon, 16, would be chosen for a national jazz program.

Nicole Pope, 35, says her son got his start at two years old when he would take pots and pans, or boxes and toys, and put them around him in a circle “like a drum set and bang on them.”

Gordon, who is a drummer for Renaissance High School’s orchestra, jazz band, symphony band, drumline and jazz combo, was the only student from Detroit chosen for the 2012 Grammy Camp-Jazz Session for high school students.

Gordon and 29 other young artists were flown to Los Angeles to perform at jazz venues and Grammy Week events, such as the Grammy Celebration after-party.

During the program, which started Friday, Feb. 3 and ran through Monday, Feb. 13, the young artists played alongside guest artists and attended the 54th annual Grammy Awards, held Sunday, Feb. 12.


The camp members also recorded an album at the Capitol Studios & Mastering in Hollywood.

All participants are also eligible to win $2 million in scholarships from Berklee College of Music, Manhattan School of Music, New School University Jazz Program and the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.

Gordon and the other camp members also performed in the Grammy in the Schools Live, a celebration of music and education sponsored by the Ford Motor Company and the Starkey Hearing Foundation, with R&B singer Anthony Hamilton, jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington.

Gordon said that he was most excited to play alongside Hamilton and Carrington, not knowing that surprise guest Spalding would be there as well.

“The best part is getting a chance to play with all of these professional musicians, who are doing what I hope to be doing one day, and for them to hear me,” says Gordon.

Gordon says he’s had many mentors such as Marcus Belgrave, a jazz trumpet player who played with Ray Charles. Most recently, Gordon was taken under the wing of Karriem Riggins, a jazz drummer and hip-hop producer.

“That’s pretty big for me. Karriem is a musical director for the rapper common and he has played with a lot of people,” says Gordon. “That’s been great. He is really nice and open. He has a lot of information.”

Gordon hopes that playing with Carrington, a professor at the Berklee College of Music will better his chances of being accepted.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity. I’m glad that he is having a chance to experience this. It really shows me a lot about his drive and his motivation,” says Pope.

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