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Students, Faculty + Alumni

Generation YSM: Meet percussionist Makana Kai Noah Medeiros ’23MM

Makana Kai Noah Medeiros

Meet percussionist and first-year master’s degree candidate Makana Kai Noah Medeiros. Makana recently spoke with us about internships he’s held with Eighth Blackbird and WGMC Jazz 90.1 in Rochester, and more.

Q: How and when did you start playing and studying drums and percussion?

A: I took piano lessons for six years before starting percussion lessons in sixth grade and participating in middle-school band. My band director told me that my previous piano studies would help me learn percussion quicker and convinced me to choose percussion as my focus. I eventually began practicing percussion more than piano and started developing a passion for it in high school.

Q: What attracted you to the percussion program at YSM?

A: YSM’s percussion program represents and cultivates, in my opinion, the highest quality performance education available. The Yale Percussion Group is an outstanding ensemble and I am so excited to rehearse and perform with the other five amazing percussionists at YSM. Professor Robert van Sice is a major figure in the percussion world and I am excited to begin studying with him. Just like so many notable alums of the program, I want be a strong voice in the percussion and music community and am incredibly honored to be able to pursue that in such an incredibly strong program. 

Q: You worked for a time at the Rochester-based radio station WGMC Jazz 90.1. What is your involvement—as a player and/or aficionado—with that style of music and other “nonclassical” styles?

A: Alongside my classical studies, I developed a newfound passion for jazz that inspired me to take lessons on drum set. Even though I majored in classical percussion, I wanted to take advantage of any and every opportunity to be a part of the jazz community. One way of doing this was by filling an internship position at WGMC Jazz 90.1 that was sponsored through the Arts Leadership Program at the Eastman School of Music during my undergrad years. Jazz 90.1 is very driven to engage with its listeners through jazz and promoting every sub-genre under that umbrella term. I was pushed to understand jazz’s place in the community in a broader and more powerful sense. I got to meet incredible musicians such as Wynton Marsalis with Jazz at Lincoln Center, Terri Lyne Carrington with her group Social Science, Nabaté Isles, and so many more. My takeaway from my experience at Jazz 90.1 is that so much of music, especially jazz, reaches across genres and influences to bring people together. As personally fulfilling as practicing and studying jazz has been for me, ultimately, bringing people together is my main personal goal as a musician. I am constantly striving to find a voice in other genres that resonates with me as much as classical music did so early on in my musical development.

Q: You had an internship with the new-music group Eighth Blackbird. What interests did that experience pique, if any?

A: Just like my internship at Jazz 90.1, my internship at Eighth Blackbird was sponsored by the Arts Leadership Program at Eastman. During my undergrad years, I had a strong interest in figuring out how musicians manifest continued success in the contemporary music genre. I am a huge fan of Eighth Blackbird’s work and wanted to learn from some of the best in the new-music field firsthand. The ensemble members and management answered so many of my questions regarding contemporary musicianship and the industry. They helped start up my entrepreneurial thinking and gave me valuable knowledge and resources to aid my own career development. I learned hands-on what it takes to run and manage an ensemble’s career. The most rewarding thing to experience was watching them perform for people of all ages who took such a liking and curiosity to new music. This internship really fueled my own interest in new music and gave me the tools and inspiration to find my place in its performance. 

Q: What have you been reading, listening to, and watching lately?

A: I usually watch cartoons such as Rick and Morty and Family Guy. I have lots of music saved to my Spotify account, but just a few of the artists on rotation this summer have been Mark Guiliana, Mac Miller, Tyler the Creator, Saba, Jacob Collier, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, and Prince. The list of course goes on. 

This is the fifth installment in a series called Generation YSM: Fall 2021