April 20, 2022
Spotlight On: Kyle Andrews
“The experience of musical healing always reminds me that being a musician is a powerful and important job, and this inspires me to get back on stage and bring audiences an experience that is sincere and meaningful.”
Drummer, writer and educator Kyle Andrews has been around the jazz scene for a while, both in Philadelphia and across the country, and he knows that continuing to push forward can be a tough enterprise. “When I start to lose motivation,” says Andrews, “I return to the records that initially sparked my passion for music and let the music heal me. The experience of musical healing always reminds me that being a musician is a powerful and important job, and this inspires me to get back on stage and bring audiences an experience that is sincere and meaningful.”
Andrews first engaged with Jazz Philadelphia through its annual Summit, and now joins the first cohort of Jazz Philadelphia’s CORE Cooperative, where he hopes to gain additional skills and tools to be more aggressive about his career in this post-pandemic phase. “After years of working as a musician and educator, I would like to develop my business skill set and be more proactive in booking and promoting performances. Especially with the major performance slow-down of the past two years, playing opportunities are more difficult to come by unless musicians create and organize them themselves,” says Andrews. “I would like to develop more skills and strategies to create opportunities for myself and fellow musicians rather than waiting on them to appear. I believe the CORE Cooperative program offers the information, support, and resources to enable me to help myself and the scene at-large by being a more proactive and entrepreneurial musician.”
Andrews, originally from West Virginia, has settled into his Philadelphia home. “My community is comprised of the musicians that inspired me to move to Philadelphia and who make the city a unique and top-tier creative center,” says Andrews. “Some of the people I have met and played with in Philadelphia are world-class musicians with sounds and approaches to music that cannot be found in any other city. I believe in the artistic integrity of this music scene and am dedicated to being a member of it and to expanding the audience within and outside of the city.”
“Some of the people I have met and played with in Philadelphia are world-class musicians with sounds and approaches to music that cannot be found in any other city. I believe in the artistic integrity of this music scene and am dedicated to being a member of it and to expanding the audience within and outside of the city.”
Some of the people he’s played with include Sean Jones, Marcus Printup, Richie Cole, John Swana, Chuck Redd, Behn Gillece, Tim Brey, James Moore, Reggie Watkins, and Lynn Speakman. He earned a Bachelor of Music Education from WV Wesleyan College, and a Master’s of Music in Jazz Studies from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. In 2013 he was named a fellow at the invitation-only Ravinia Stean’s Institute where he studied composition and improvisation under jazz legends David Baker, Nathan Davis, Curtis Fuller, and Rufus Reid.
As an educator, Andrews taught full time at West Virginia Wesleyan from 2015 – 2019 where he directed the jazz ensembles along with lecturing in music theory, music history, and cultural studies. For the past 12 years, he has also maintained a private studio where he teaches all styles and levels of drummers and percussionists, and also teaches at the Community College of Philadelphia.
Just for good measure, he’s also spreading the word about jazz: He also writes for Modern Drummer Magazine and Drum Factory Direct; his reviews appearing periodically since the spring of 2013.
Ultimately what Andrews is looking for is more opportunity for a community of talented jazz musicians who still don’t have enough places to play. “My vision of Philadelphia as a jazz city is one where the number and quality of venues and audiences matches the already existing community of musicians,” he says. “My hopes are that Philadelphia would be the home of a large number of venues that not only present and host music, but value and revere the city’s rich musical legacy.”
Like many musicians, he knows that there is a mismatch between what musicians are worth, and what the market can currently bear. “I hope that Philadelphia’s venues would pay living wages commensurate with the high level of musicianship on display daily,” says Andrews, who wants to keep Philadelphia’s talent here so that, “fewer would need to pursue other streams of income or move away to more financially viable locations.”
He knows that also means reaching out to more audiences, and really establishing a scene. “I hope that a core audience and listening community would be cultivated to support these establishments and venues,” he says. He hopes that developing a sense of community and excitement at venues will be part of that building process, including educating audiences to be “savvy music consumers who are invested in the development and growth of our local musicians.”
That won’t be without work, and Andrews says some of it is just about respecting the music itself, along with musicians who have worked so hard to develop their craft. “I believe that the current obstacles in the city are twofold: a lack of a strong audience and listening community, and a dearth of listening and paying venues. The lack of a consistent and well-informed listening audience leads to noisy environments where intimate performances are very difficult for musicians to create and nearly impossible for engaged listeners to enjoy.” He wants to see venues where, “artists can perform much more comfortably and creatively, delivering deeper and more meaningful performances.”
“Currently,” he says, “there are no clubs or listening rooms that regularly pay a living wage to local musicians. Many restaurants admirably host music, but it is to non-listening audiences that did not come for a show. Restaurants also rarely have the budget for a reasonable pay scale for musicians. There are a few venues that regularly pay big-name touring acts, but these opportunities are scarce for local musicians. While there are many other concert opportunities, the social nature of clubs is essential for stoking creativity and networking amongst the city’s musicians.” He wants to see more financial incentive for musicians to perform, collaborate, or network outside of home or private rehearsal spaces.”
Andrews believes that if musicians can make a living wage, it means more time for the work it takes to become a great musician. Musicians, says Andrews, need time that is, “kept free for creative pursuits such as composing new music, practicing, listening, or jamming and rehearsing with other musicians. These activities are essential for keeping my performances at the highest level and for growth and development of myself and the entire scene at large.” This, says Andrews, is what will continue to “elevate” the jazz scene, and create “meaningful performances and projects, improving the quality of life for the entire city.”
Andrews says he makes most of his money now outside the city of Philadelphia, and usually as a sideman, and he hopes that can change with the help of Jazz Philadelphia’s CORE Cooperative. “The skills I hope to develop in the CORE Cooperative will create more opportunities for myself and my peers to build a financially and creatively supportive environment commensurate with the level of musicianship and artistry in Philadelphia.”
He’s ready to step up and be a leader on that front and he tries to model the traits that he believes make a good leader, including being a good listener who is sensitive to and considerate of the needs of others. He knows you also have to be organized, task-oriented, and, importantly, a professional who is, “focused on delivering a high quality of performance to audiences.” He believes that these are the kinds of skills that will help push the scene forward and create new opportunities for musicians.
You can see Andrews out and about at the jam sessions at Time and the El Bar. He’s performed before with Greensleeves music, Breaking the Barrier School of Music, Con Alma Pittsburgh, West Virginia 4H, Drum Factory Direct, Jon Ardito Entertainment, and the Bachelor Boys Band.
“I play with a band based in Bethlehem, PA called The Witherbees that released an album in June 2021,” says Andrews, who enjoys the all-hands-on-deck approach of the band. “This band is a collective group that shares responsibility not only in composition and improvisation, but in booking and promoting.”
Andrews says they’re looking to expand their reach beyond the region. “The recent album consists of mostly original music that is a unique blend of folk, song-writing, and free-jazz that crosses genre and audience boundaries. The group has performed in Philadelphia, around Pennsylvania, and beyond, with all members contributing efforts towards expanding our audience base and booking shows in further and newer venues across the east coast.”
Look him up @k_andrewsdrums and at www.kyleandrewsdrums.com
Jazz Philadelphia is proud to have Kyle Andrews in the inaugural cohort of the CORE Cooperative, an entrepreneurship, leadership, and wellness program for jazz artists and advocates. For more information, visit Jazz Philadelphia.
“My vision of Philadelphia as a jazz city is one where the number and quality of venues and audiences matches the already existing community of musicians”