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Master Percussionist Paoli Mejias Visits Cornish

Master Percussionist Paoli Mejias Visits Cornish

: Photo by Alex Diaz photography.

Paoli Mejias is offering Cornish something he never had: a teacher. Puerto Rican born percussionist Mejias taught himself how to play conga and Latin Jazz starting at age 12, listening to records and learning by ear, with a love of music that carried him all the way to performing alongside the musicians who inspired him.

Learning this music through hard work has instilled a patience in him as a teacher that students appreciate.“Paoli is a very relaxed yet serious teacher. He showed his passion and enjoyment in what he does, translating it to hard work to motivate us,” says student Nozomi Jones. “The unusual rhythms were often difficult to follow but he was extremely patient.”

“Paoli fuses straight-ahead jazz with African, Mediterranean & Caribbean folkloric rhythms to create a new dimension of Latin jazz that is global, energetic, and modern”, describes Mejias’ website. He’s a Grammy nominee (Mi Tambor, Best Latin Jazz Album, 2005), he’s played with artists such as Tito Puente, Dave Samuels, Dave Valentín, Paquito d’Rivera, Chick Corea, David Sánchez and Danilo Pérez, and gives master classes and residencies in several countries. With incredible talent and inspiring work like his, Cornish was honored to bring him to campus.

Mejias came to Cornish this Fall for an artist residency with the Music department. For two weeks, students learned about Latin American and African styles and rhythms, gaining confidence and skill in fusing them with Jazz and other kinds of music.  “The music we played in Paoli’s class was hard but very enjoyable. [...] He would get us to sing in a foreign tongue and dance ritualistically which was extremely invigorating, immersing us totally in the music and what surrounds it. It was not only musically exciting but just as a person getting to explore another culture so fully was inspiring”, says Jones. For her, the complex Tabla rhythm she learned with Mejias was a topic to bring along to her Rhythm class for further dissection. “It was a difficult task that everyone became enthusiastic about.”

Paoli Mejias is coming back to Cornish this Spring for another two-week intensive on Afro-Caribbean rhythm, exploring its influences on contemporary Cuban and Puerto Rican music. For vocal or instrumental Music students, this promises to be a lively and challenging opportunity. Jones concludes, “Paoli showed us that being able to play music is a gift, and that it will be hard but it should always be fun. ”


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