West African and Cuban percussion inspire long-time drummer

The Southerner

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Sophomore Jones Maynard leans intently forward on the edge of his seat, tilting his head slightly to listen for the exact rhythm he is trying to recreate from tapping his feet and patting his thighs. His intense focus makes it easy to picture the moment when he said he “first became addicted to the sound” as a child. When Maynard was 8 years old, he remembers watching his older friend play the drums, and then thinking, “that looks cool, I could do that.” The next day he picked up drum sticks for the first time and “just went with it.”

“He was born to play drums,” said Catherine Maynard, Maynard’s mom. “Over the summer when he was little, he went to Camp Jam and when I came to pick him up one day I couldn’t find him. His counselors told me he was in the back playing drums, where he had sat down hours ago and hadn’t gotten up since.”

Since he first got his set, Maynard has always played with his older brother Pace, a Grady alumnus.

“The first day he got a drum set, he told me that we were going to play a song called Slither by Velvet Revolver,” Pace said. “ I told him ok, but in the back of my mind I didn’t think he would be able to play it. Sure enough though, we played the song in one take and we’ve been playing together ever since.”

Maynard plays his drum set every day, from the time he gets home from school until about 9 p.m., when his parents make him stop.

“I have a whole routine I go through—warming up on the set, focusing on percussion, doing some jamming … I make sure to play for at least 45 minutes every day,” Maynard said.

Around 2008, Maynard and Pace, along with senior Jack Webster and alumnus Ben Powers, formed a band named Couches in Alleys. They played together for about a year, performing gigs at various local Atlanta venues.

Pace said he enjoys playing with Maynard because he can keep up with Pace’s lead guitar when it’s just the two of them.

“This is not an easy thing to do because the drums and the lead guitar are essentially on opposite ends of the soundscape in rock music,” Pace said. “We have great chemistry together because Jones has a tremendous ability to keep the beat by himself while I play lead guitar which is often off beat. I believe this talent of his has been honed because he only had me, a lead guitarist, to play with for so many years.”

Now Maynard and Pace are members of Universal Sigh along wih junior Josiah Garrett and senior Steve Terry. They have performed a total of seven shows at bars, lounges in Athens and local house parties or venues around Atlanta in the 4 months they’ve been together.

“We’re a jam band, which is difficult because everything’s always different,” Maynard said. “We have hand signals we use for jamming at shows, but since I’m the main drummer my job is to think outside the box to figure out what I want to do to bring out the sound everyone else wants.”

At the end of each show, Maynard and the other members of Universal Sigh make a point to critique one another to make the next show better.

“Jones is an essential piece to the inner workings of Universal Sigh,” Pace said. “He is both a drummer and a percussionist at the same time. US would probably have an entirely different sound without him.”

Maynard’s music teacher, Scott Bryan, has helped him learn to play guitar and piano in addition to drums and percussions, which Maynard feels he is best at.

“My teacher will usually give me the basics of an instrument, and then just say ‘go figure it out,’” Maynard said.

When he first began to play drums, he took inspiration from classic rock, but over the course of the past few years has turned to different styles such as Latin percussion, West African rhythm and reggae groups.

Catherine said Maynard’s teacher sees him progressing rapidly—recently Bryan told her he has never taught any of his other students West African drumming before because he wasn’t sure they were interested or ready for it. But Catherine said obviously this isn’t the case with Maynard.

Maynard said he first had his standard drum set, and then added the samba and bassanova after he was introduced to them by his teacher, then got wooden jam blocks and a cowbell. Friends and even strangers would hear he had a drum set, and would give him random pieces to add to it. Eventually Maynard combined everything he owned to create his set.

“I’m focusing on applying different West African, Colombian, Cuban styles and to westernized rock music,” Maynard said. “Altering the communications between guitar, a drum set and bass can be difficult to meld together.”

Maynard recently wrote a research paper for school on the origins of percussion and learned how two drums can be used as a basis for communication, such as in villages in West Africa. He said he found this to be a great inspiration for his music.

“Percussion is my passion,” Maynard said. “It’s so cool because the way that percussion with syncopated rhythms can alter time and space is fascinating to me.”

Maynard knows he will always play music “no matter what happens,” but is still unsure whether he could “take it to the next level.”

“Music has become a hugely significant part of his life now,” Catherine said. “There’s a lot of discipline in learning and exploring music, discipline he can relate to other things in his life.”

Pace agrees that music has played a huge part in shaping who Maynard has become as a person.

“Jones is a quiet, studious, and mature person that tends to keep to himself,” Pace said. “He is more mature than many of my friends in college. Music is everything to Jones. All I ever seen him do is play music and study.”

Maynard’s dream is to travel and perform 150 shows a year, only needing his “drum set and girl.”

“I could definitely see myself as a full-time musician, I approach music very professionally,” Maynard said. “In theory it’s a great idea, but I will probably have to support myself in other ways to keep playing. At least for a while.”

Maynard said he will try to pursue it as a career path, but doesn’t plan to rely on it.

“I definitely think he could have a career in music, but since it’s not the easiest field, we’re making sure he still gets a degree,” Catherine said. “He’s at a great point in his life now because all of his attention can go towards music and school, both of which will help him in the future and continue to grow with him.”

“I’m sure Jones will continue to be involved in music for the duration of his life,” Pace said. “ A band is only as good as it’s drummer, and Jones is a phenomenal drummer.”

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