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KoSA Brings World Rhythms to Johnson State College

KoSA at Johnson State College

International drumming festival makes historic return to its roots

August 7, 2006

KoSA Brings World Rhythms to Johnson State College

Many of the world’s greatest drummers, percussionists and rhythm specialists will teach and perform at the 11th annual KoSA International Percussion Workshops and Festival at Johnson State College, August 7-13, 2006.

The weeklong event at the college’s Dibden Center for the Arts reunites performers, participants and audiences. Johnson State College was the original venue for the first three years of the explosive musical showcase. For the past six years, the festival has been based at Castleton State College. However, Castleton’s theater is being refurbished this summer, so a return to Johnson seemed like a logical compromise, said organizers.

Based in Montreal, KoSA was co-founded by artistic director Aldo Mazza and his wife, projects coordinator Dr. Jolan Kovacs-Mazza, and is a magnet for some of the biggest names in percussion, and students eager to learn skills from the masters firsthand.

More than 100 students from the US, Canada and Europe will participate in three 90-minute classes each day of the festival. Each night, the public is invited to enjoy outstanding performances of standards and original works by KoSA faculty, as well as outstanding students from the workshops.

The roots of the festival date back to mid-1990s. The co-founders wanted to found an organization that reflected Aldo Mazza’s drumming influences growing up in Italy where his father was a traditional hand drummer.

They chose the name KoSA, from the Italian word, koca, “the thing,” “the cause,” or “this is it!” to represent a defining genre. A little change to the spelling of the word gave their logo more “punch.”

Searching for a site to stage their first festival in 1996, they turned for advice to a family friend, Peter Wilder, who was living in Hyde Park, Vt. “We were looking for a mountainous location that reflected Aldo’s upbringing in the mountainous region of Calabria in Southern Italy,” said Jolan. “Peter suggested we look at nearby Johnson State College, nestled in the mountains of northern Vermont. When we visited the site, we said ‘This is it,’ it was perfect.” To this day, Wilder remains KoSA’s marketing director.

“Obviously we have grown, and the festival will be much bigger than it was back then,” added Aldo. “So this is getting back our roots and we look forward to sharing it with the community.”

Festival students and audiences are in for a thrilling experience.KoSA’s faculty spans many of the world’s definitive drumming styles, including: rock, jazz and funk in contemporary Western music; Latin, Brazilian and Afro-Caribbean rhythms; Arabic and Indian hand drumming; Japanese Taiko drumming; and West African marimba and vibraphone styles. Music theory and technology are included in master classes.

The faculty and stars on show include: world-renowned vibraphone master David Friedman; Paul Simon’s percussionist Jamey Haddad; Sting’s percussionist Kenwood Dennard; Arethra Franklin drummer Bernard Purdie; studio-session great and Julliard School of Music teacher Gordon Gottlieb; conga legend Giovanni Hidalgo; and Jim Chapin, celebrated author of the “Bible of hand drumming.” Among the KoSA faculty and performers is Johnson State College Professor Jim Salisbury who teaches hand drumming, and helped organize the event.

Nightly shows from August 7 through 12 start at 8 p.m., with a variety of classical, contemporary and avant-garde performances, ensembles, fusion and big-band sounds, created by faculty and students.

On Tuesday, August 8, at 6 p.m., there will be a free KoSAperformance at Tuesday Night Live at the corner of School Street and Clay Hill in Johnson. On Wednesday, August 9, at 7 p.m., there will be a Community Drum Circle, free-of-charge and open to the public in front of Dibden Center for the Arts, followed by a concert in the auditorium at 8 p.m. The KoSA Eleven Faculty’s Grande Finale Concert is Saturday, August 12, at 8 p.m.

Tickets are available at the door. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students and children (children under 12 are admitted free).

For more information, call the box office at 802-635-1476, orKoSA at 514-482-5554; email them at:, or visit their web site:

NOTE TO EDITORS: Aldo Mazza will be on campus at Johnson State College from August 5, and will be available for interviews. Call the box office at the number above, or contact Johnson State College.