Pearl Jam’s Dave Krusen recently participated in GRAMMY Camp, one of the GRAMMY Foundation®’s GRAMMY in the Schools® music education programs for high school students and schools. GRAMMY Camp unites High School musicians from around the country for one week where they write, record, and perform all original material while gaining insights from top musicians. GRAMMY Camp is held every summer in Los Angeles, and New York
The film HAPPY ON THE GROUND: 8 DAYS AT GRAMMY CAMP which documents the student's time at the camp, premiered on February 5, 2013 and is available for digital download through all traditional channels.
Dave graciously took time to answer questions about the camp, the students he mentored and the state of arts and music programs in our schools.
What propelled you to participate in the GRAMMY Camp program?
My wife works with MusiCares, which is the non-profit, charitable arm of the GRAMMY’s, so there’s that connection. I got a call asking if I wanted to come down and hang out with some of the drummers so I jumped at the chance, it sounded like a cool thing, and I had a lot of fun hanging out with the kids.
What has participating in this project, taught you about yourself as a musician and the state of musical education?
I didn’t know anything about GRAMMY Camp before I went down there, especially with budget cuts and music programs being taken out of schools right and left, it was cool to see how they put the whole thing together. I was impressed with the talent level and I think it’s great that the GRAMMY’s offer this program.
Did you see yourself in any of the GRAMMY Camp students?
Yeah, I did. There was a lot of people who helped me out when I was young. I had a choir teacher who took me under her wing and made me a drummer for a small jazz choir, which traveled and did contests. I did that in 8th grade and I learned a ton. It was cool to go down there and share my experiences with them and tell them about how I came up and some of the pitfalls I had fallen into, not so much as a warning but to keep your head straight and you’ll be fine.
Did you have a musical coach or mentor growing up?
I had a friend of mine who was a few years older than me and he would lend me his drums and showed me different drum beats, I also had a really great band teacher in 5th grade who was really instrumental in helping me develop on the snare drum.
What has been the most memorable/inspiring moment for you since you began working with the GRAMMY Camp?
Playing along with the kids was amazing. They had two drum sets set up so we all kind of switched it up and jammed together. It was inspiring for me to see how talented they were. I was blown away by their personalities, their drive and they were all very respectful and just a great group of kids.
Those who oppose art and music programs in schools argue that budgeting and financials strain are the reasons these programs are eliminated, what are your thoughts on this issue?
I think people take music for granted these days, they down load songs and don’t want to pay for anything, yet its such an important part of everyone’s life. It’s ironic because so many people grew up playing instruments, because band was such a big deal, and all of a sudden it’s like, “I want my kid into sports, there’s no career in music.” But a career in sports is much shorter, you can play music your entire life and even if you’re not making a giant living from it, you can still get so much fulfillment from it. I don’t understand why the focus is on sports, because even if you make a living at sports, it’s not a long career.
What misconceptions exist about the importance of arts and music programs in our educational systems? And how does this negatively influence or setback the future of the music industries future?
I think it’s sad that if you want to pursue music you have to go outside of school. It used to be part of our upbringing and accessible, it was offered in school; therefore, it was easy to get involved with. We had to enroll my son in a kind of rock school for kids so he could interact with other musicians and that costs money, and if you don’t have the money to enroll your kids in these kind of schools, what are you going to do? It used to be that you could learn an instrument by just attending school, you had to rent the instruments but it was much cheaper and easier to get involved with music when I was growing up. So many talented kids might not get the opportunity to become musicians just out of the fact that they might not be able to afford the expenses.
I think there’s a lot of talented kids who if they grew up playing music, who knew what they could do? Inner cities and even rural areas where somebody might have a ton of natural ability and talent might not have the opportunity to develop it and we’ll never know what they can do. Twenty or thirty years ago, kids that didn’t have the funds still had it accessible to them and if that goes away it’s a shame.
What was your goal for the GRAMMY Camp and have they changed from when you first started?
When I first went down there, I had the goal of sharing my experiences, interacting with them musically, and playing off each other. That changed when I was there, became more aware, and got more information. Being there made me want to become involved, and I was able to provide a scholarship and a little goes a long way, when you’re giving anyone a boost.
Who/what is inspiring you now?
My son Jagger is a huge inspiration to me. He plays in a band called Slater, and the drive and focus he and his friends have is a massive inspiration. We have a studio at the house and if I’m not in there working, then he’s in there working.
I also find it inspiring when people find a way to have actual art made without record labels and suits deciding what’s artistic and what will be a success.
What does being brave mean to you?
Being brave means being true to yourself at any cost. I think sticking up for what you believe in is brave.
Where can my readers find you online?