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See a 10-Year-Old Jazz Prodigy Perform for Free in Crotona Park on Friday

By Eddie Small | July 23, 2015 4:43pm
 Roney has been playing the drums since he was a toddler.
Roney has been playing the drums since he was a toddler.
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City Parks Foundation

CLAREMONT — This SummerStage performer may have mastered the drums, but he still isn't old enough to drive.

Kojo Odu Roney, a 10-year-old jazz drummer who has been playing since he was a toddler, will perform a free show in Crotona Park on Friday as part of the City Parks Foundation's SummerStage Kids series.

Roney was able to confidently play with jazz ensembles by age 4 and began his professional music career at age 8, when he went on his first tour of Europe.

He said he instantly fell in love with the drums and aims to practice them every day, although the fact that he has neighbors can sometimes make this difficult.

"I try to practice about seven hours. That’s on a good day," he said. "On a bad day, it’s about three hours."

He comes from a family of musicians. His father, Antoine Roney, is a jazz saxophonist and his uncle Wallace Roney plays the trumpet.

Monique Martin, director of programming at the City Parks Foundation, stressed that Roney performs with adults, which she described as a clear indicator of his prodigious talent.

"It’s not a kid band," she said. "It’s a kid with serious cats that are performing all over the city and the world."

Tomorrow, he will play in a trio with his father and bassist Rashaan Carter.

Roney's dad said he has fun playing with his son and compared him to "one of the great drummers" like Elvin Jones and Tony Williams.

"It’s fun, but a little more than fun. It’s rewarding to see and to be a part of," he said. "He’s playing, he’s performing at such a high level, and it’s really rewarding to see that."

The show will take place at Crotona Park East and Charlotte Street on July 24 from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m.

Martin met Roney through his father and said she was "totally blown away" when she heard him perform.

But as soon as he stops playing the drums, he is just a regular kid, she said.

"He comes off his drums and wants to play on the playground," she said. "He’s still innocent and bouncy and joyous, and then when he gets on those drums, he’s like a 40-year-old jazz cat."

Roney described his devotion to the drums as a "vision" to help his peers stop focusing solely on hip-hop and start learning more about the storied history of jazz.

"Jazz music is the greatest music of all time," he said, "and everything comes from jazz music. If you’ve got drums and bass, that’s jazz."