Like most young drummers, Billy Kilson began his career in his mother's kitchen with her pots and pans. Billy's love for the drums began to grow as he grew. Pots and pans, twigs and sticks were used to create a beat. Seeing her son's interest in music, Billy's mother enrolled him in trumpet lessons and later he switched to trombone. His yearning for the drums continued and finally, for his sixteenth birthday he received his first drum set. The gift was conditional upon his continuance of good grades. He kept his part of the bargain and graduated with honors while taking advantage of every free moment to pursue his passion for the drums.
Billy went immediately to work to hone the skills he had developed on the pots and pans. He realized he was working against the clock since most professional musicians began taking lessons on their chosen instrument in grade school. By the time they reached high school, they were semi-pro. Billy was just starting out at the old age of 16. "I practiced as much as 14 hours a day. That was it; there were no short cuts. I had to work around studies and other responsibilities. But all through college and the early years after college, I tried to put in those 14 hours on the drums."
Billy learned all different styles of playing. Inspired by funk and R&B, he listened to groups such as Sly and Family Stone, Earth Wind and Fire, and Parliament & Funkadelic and played along with the records. "I listened to everything. Since so much of my early playing was self-taught, I think this was the key to my diverse styles. I was exposed to so many different styles. My father loved music and on Saturdays, his favorite thing to do was to listen to music all day long. He had a massive record collection consisting of artists from Count Basie and Duke Ellington to Junior Walker and James Brown. Since I was exposed to much, I learn to play many styles."
At sixteen, Billy attended the Maryland Gifted and Talented Institute for High School Students. It was here he first heard about Berklee School of Music. At seventeen he went to the Shenandoah Music Camp and heard one of Stanley Clarke's recordings featuring Tony Williams. Then he listened to some of Miles Davis records that also featured Williams. "I felt he was the most innovative drummer I had ever heard. I was mesmerized by his playing," recalls Billy. He was overwhelmed with the sound and kept trying to learn this technique, but felt he didn't have enough hands. "I kept saying, 'How does he do that. It's impossible!" Billy learned that Tony Williams' teacher was Alan Dawson who had taught at Berklee at one time and still taught privately in the area. "My mom was already checking out the college scene. She was trying to find the school that offered the right balance of music and academics." Having learned some things about Berklee, she was in agreement with Billy's enthusiastic assessment of the school.Read more
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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson
Feel Like Making Live!
Evolution Music Group
Walt Disney Records
Pots & Pans
Adventures in Jazz
Walt Disney Records