The Arts

Grammy-winner Bakithi Kumalo to direct EEA Rocks Band program as new faculty member

Kathleen Dwyer-Ruscisk, the East End Arts education director, took a chance when she asked five-time grammy award winning musician Bakithi Kumalo to join the organizations Art and Music school faculty.

When he agreed, she couldn’t believe it. 

“I almost fell out of my chair,” she said. 

Mr. Kumalo first worked with East End Arts in early 2017, teaching students in the nonprofit organization’s Music Masters Mentorship Program. That program employs master performers and composers in rock music, jazz, world music and classical music to mentor small groups of talented high school students from across Long Island’s school districts, according to East End Arts website.

Mr. Kumalo was born and raised in South Africa. He first started playing bass in his uncle’s band when he was 7 years old. He is best known as long time bassist for Paul Simon and is happy to be returning to Long Island, his “second home,” to share his love of music.

“I’m just so grateful that they invited me again for the second time,” Mr. Kumalo said.

Starting September 6, Mr. Kumalo will be directing the EEA Rocks Band program. He will be commuting from Pennsylvania to direct the program.

The Rocks Band Program began in 2021 as a project for teenagers and has developed into a group music program that includes opportunities for all ages. There are five bands in the program this year, two of which are new, according to Ms.Dwyer Ruscisk.

The first band is New Kids On the Rock, designated for 10-15 year olds. EEA Rocks One and EEA Rocks Two are for those that are 13-17 years old. Another band included in the program is Rock U for 18-30 year olds, and the last band is Better Late Than Never for those 30 years old and older.

According to the press release, each band in each category is made up of 4-8 members and includes vocals, guitars, bass, percussion, keys and violin. They also encourage horn and string players to join.

The program led by Mr.Kumalo will cost $280 per person. Members of East End Arts will receive a 20% discount. The bands meet weekly on designated days and the semester includes eight 90-minute practice sessions and an end-of-semester performance, according to the press release from East End Arts.

His return to East End Arts also reactivates their Artist Residency Program which has been dormant since the early days of the pandemic, according to the press release.

Mr. Kumalo will also be teaching private music lessons, which will be held on Tuesdays. According to the press release, partial scholarships will also be available for private lessons. For more details and pricing information, call the EEA registrar at 631-396-2171.

Mr. Kumalo said he is looking forward to working with kids and supporting East End Arts in continuing to provide the programs they do for the community.

“This is the time to learn how to be together and how to build together, how to make a song together,” Mr. Kumalo said. “A song is like cooking together in the kitchen, you bring your spices, I bring my spices, and we make good food and that’s what I’m hoping is gonna happen.”

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