Drummer of the Year: Quentin Ravenel 

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Jonathan Boncek

It isn't just that Quentin Ravenel can play drums like he has six arms. It's that while he's pulling off a dizzying series of fills, beats, and rhythms, he's also singing. As the leader and focal point of his group, Quentin Ravenel & Friends, he can go from a soulful falsetto to a gospel shout, all while striking his drums, cymbals, and programmed pads with relish and precision.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Ravenel is part of a musical family. "I come from a line of singers and musicians. My mom Helen Freeman is a well-known singer around the Lowcountry," he says. "And my little brother Stephen Freeman tours playing keyboards for Mary J. Blige."

In fact, in terms of his singing, Ravenel lists his mom as his biggest influence, along with some perhaps surprising bigger names. "Anderson Paak is one of my favorite artists," says Ravenel, who also drums for another CPMA winner, Ben Fagan & the Holy City Hooligans. "He plays drums and sings and raps, and he recently got signed by Dr. Dre. I could go on for days, but I'm also influenced by Ben Fagan and Chris Brown."

When it comes to percussionists who motivated him to play in his youth (he learned to play drums before he learned to sing), he cites a similarly wide range of inspiration. "Eric Moore (Suicidal Tendencies, Bobby Brown, Diddy) has had a huge influence on my playing," he says. "So have Buddy Rich, Dennis Chambers, Mitch Mitchell, and Nate Smith."

As for doing two jobs at once, Ravenel says it's just a matter of hard work. "Well, it's far from easy," he says. "It's taken years of practice to be able to do them both. I would say my biggest challenge is choosing the right songs that I can execute gracefully as I play the drums — that and remembering lyrics."


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