After seeing a KISS album cover at K-Mart as a kid, Dan Davis immediately knew he wanted to be a drummer. What he didn’t know was that he would end up in jazz.


KISS Alive! album cover
The album cover that made Davis want to play drums; image courtesy of wikipedia


Born in Lexington, the “barbecue capital of North Carolina,” Davis grew up surrounded by music; his mother a church choir director, teaching piano lessons and having singers visit their home often. Being close to Winston-Salem, he was able to study percussion at the North Carolina School of the Arts while in middle and high school, and played in the Winston-Salem Youth Symphony.


When it came time for college, percussion was already a big part of Davis’s life. He didn’t want to do anything else, so he decided to major in music. East Carolina University had a good percussion program and was the right distance from home; so he chose to go there for his undergraduate degree. While at ECU, Davis was part of the Music Teachers National Association’s collegiate artist competition, winning at the state, regional and national levels in 1987.


Having been a rock drummer up to this point, Davis was introduced to jazz that same year. He tried to reject rock completely, separating it mentally from his new love. Never succeeding at removing his rock style from his jazz playing, this mixture is what sets him apart from other jazz drummers today.


Having no desire to become a band director, Davis relocated to Durham, North Carolina after graduating from college; going to jam sessions and playing in dance bands. He received his Masters degree from North Carolina Central University, and developed a relationship with many of the great jazz musicians in the area; eventually becoming an adjunct professor of jazz drumset and jazz history at UNC Chapel Hill, ECU, and UNC Pembroke.


Today Davis manages theĀ  extremely difficult balance between teaching at multiple schools, performing in a few bands, and being a husband andĀ  father of two.

Leave a Reply