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Young Lions’ drummer Rhydian Marshall’s rock & role model high school

“What brought me to jazz was Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam”

Rhydian Marshall: up-and-comer drummer
Rhydian Marshall: up-and-comer drummer

There are plenty of stories about drummers who got their start while still in their teens or even earlier. But not many involve someone with the talent and potential of Young Lions Jazz Conservatory phenom Rhydian Marshall, a 14-year-old freshman at San Marcos High School who is currently in the ninth grade. He’s already been playing the drums for nine years, and working specifically on his jazz chops for the last five. “When I was younger,” he says, “I used to like to run around the house and hit anything possible — like countertops, using pots and pans and anything else I could find. I’ve been doing that since I was a baby, so, when I turned six, my parents arranged for me to get private lessons.”

Marshall notes that he doesn’t come from a musical family. “My dad plays a little guitar, and my brothers are playing piano a little bit. But I was the main person to really start taking private lessons. Before I started playing jazz, I just listened to a lot of rock bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who. What brought me to jazz was [former San Diegan] Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam; I heard that he had played a lot of jazz before. I really wanted to learn other styles of music besides rock. So, I started working on jazz and funk at the same time, just to get myself more well-rounded.”

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Marshall is currently studying with long-time working pro Richard Sellers (Hubert Laws, Mike Garson), who has already taught him quite a bit. “The most important thing is being able to play all kinds of music, so I’m not weak in any area. If I want to play in a jazz jam session or play with a rock or R&B band, I can do it, although I’m trying to mainly focus on jazz for right now.” When it comes to jazz role models, he’s already done a lot of homework: “I really enjoy and have been influenced by Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones, and Max Roach.”

Currently, Marshall is “working on learning the vibraphone, so I can combine learning a melodic instrument in order to become a better drummer. I’ve been working with [vibist] Ian Harland, and Gilbert [Castellanos, the Young Lions’ founder] has been helping me write my first original composition, which has been a really valuable experience. I want to be able to fit in better with piano, bass, and the horns. I also want to be able to compose on my own. My teachers helped me with the first one, but I want to be able to do it on my own…I want to be a professional. I’d like to be a recording artist, I want to be able to compose and mix and do all that.”

Working so much on music doesn’t leave much time for other activities, but Marshall has several interests that occasionally qualify as occupational backup plans. “I’ve recently taken up playing chess for fun, and I’ve also been trying to hone my chops on becoming a programmer, because both of my parents are software engineers. I want to pursue a path in that and continue to advance in music.”

And although he has another few years of high school until he needs to make a decision, he’s already considering a future that includes music school. “Yeah, I’ve definitely thought about that. I definitely want to become a working, gigging musician, I want to be on the scene. I’m not sure if I’ll be staying here in San Diego or if I want to study in a place like New York.”

He joined the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory at age 11; this is his fourth year in the award-winning organization. He plays in the Free For All Ensemble, named for a famous 1964 Art Blakey album on the Blue Note label. Performing in that context has yielded concrete results: “It’s helped me gain more confidence in playing in front of large audiences. When I first joined the Young Lions, I was very shy, and I guess I’m kind of nervous. I’m a lot better with that now. Playing music in high school is kind of strict, but Gilbert allows us to have a voice and an opinion, and to play solos that show who we really are as a person.”

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Rhydian Marshall: up-and-comer drummer
Rhydian Marshall: up-and-comer drummer

There are plenty of stories about drummers who got their start while still in their teens or even earlier. But not many involve someone with the talent and potential of Young Lions Jazz Conservatory phenom Rhydian Marshall, a 14-year-old freshman at San Marcos High School who is currently in the ninth grade. He’s already been playing the drums for nine years, and working specifically on his jazz chops for the last five. “When I was younger,” he says, “I used to like to run around the house and hit anything possible — like countertops, using pots and pans and anything else I could find. I’ve been doing that since I was a baby, so, when I turned six, my parents arranged for me to get private lessons.”

Marshall notes that he doesn’t come from a musical family. “My dad plays a little guitar, and my brothers are playing piano a little bit. But I was the main person to really start taking private lessons. Before I started playing jazz, I just listened to a lot of rock bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who. What brought me to jazz was [former San Diegan] Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam; I heard that he had played a lot of jazz before. I really wanted to learn other styles of music besides rock. So, I started working on jazz and funk at the same time, just to get myself more well-rounded.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Marshall is currently studying with long-time working pro Richard Sellers (Hubert Laws, Mike Garson), who has already taught him quite a bit. “The most important thing is being able to play all kinds of music, so I’m not weak in any area. If I want to play in a jazz jam session or play with a rock or R&B band, I can do it, although I’m trying to mainly focus on jazz for right now.” When it comes to jazz role models, he’s already done a lot of homework: “I really enjoy and have been influenced by Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones, and Max Roach.”

Currently, Marshall is “working on learning the vibraphone, so I can combine learning a melodic instrument in order to become a better drummer. I’ve been working with [vibist] Ian Harland, and Gilbert [Castellanos, the Young Lions’ founder] has been helping me write my first original composition, which has been a really valuable experience. I want to be able to fit in better with piano, bass, and the horns. I also want to be able to compose on my own. My teachers helped me with the first one, but I want to be able to do it on my own…I want to be a professional. I’d like to be a recording artist, I want to be able to compose and mix and do all that.”

Working so much on music doesn’t leave much time for other activities, but Marshall has several interests that occasionally qualify as occupational backup plans. “I’ve recently taken up playing chess for fun, and I’ve also been trying to hone my chops on becoming a programmer, because both of my parents are software engineers. I want to pursue a path in that and continue to advance in music.”

And although he has another few years of high school until he needs to make a decision, he’s already considering a future that includes music school. “Yeah, I’ve definitely thought about that. I definitely want to become a working, gigging musician, I want to be on the scene. I’m not sure if I’ll be staying here in San Diego or if I want to study in a place like New York.”

He joined the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory at age 11; this is his fourth year in the award-winning organization. He plays in the Free For All Ensemble, named for a famous 1964 Art Blakey album on the Blue Note label. Performing in that context has yielded concrete results: “It’s helped me gain more confidence in playing in front of large audiences. When I first joined the Young Lions, I was very shy, and I guess I’m kind of nervous. I’m a lot better with that now. Playing music in high school is kind of strict, but Gilbert allows us to have a voice and an opinion, and to play solos that show who we really are as a person.”

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