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I strive to reconcile the angry & confused years of my adolescence with a calling to an artistic life grounded in cultural music practices and Western percussion traditions. Art-making helps me construct my identity and connect with a lot of different communities. I'd love to share more of my story and hear about yours - please feel free to contact me!

Below is a long-winded biography detailing a large portion of my work over the years. 

NY Philharmonic "Off the Grid" in Ann Arbor, 2017. Photo by  Peter Smith .  Top photo by Andrew Howell (UM ArtsEngine).

NY Philharmonic "Off the Grid" in Ann Arbor, 2017. Photo by Peter Smith.

Top photo by Andrew Howell (UM ArtsEngine).

Phoenix, Arizona native AJ Covey is a young percussionist, educator, and collaborator who is passionate about sharing a wide array of musical traditions with people around the world. He holds master’s degrees in Percussion Performance and Chamber Music from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of North Texas. He is currently located in Birmingham, AL and teaches as an Adjunct Percussion Instructor at the University of North Alabama and the University of Montevallo.

As a Graduate Fellow at the University of Michigan Center for World Performance Studies, AJ spent a month at the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement in Mysore, India where he studied Carnatic percussion with Vidwan H.L. Shivashankar Swamy, and another month in Bali, Indonesia exploring indigenous art forms and traditional Gamelan performance. He coalesced these ethnographic experiences into a lecture, “Perspectives on teaching and learning 'world' music: Addressing the radical shift in cultural context when teaching foreign musical traditions in the Western conservatory."

AJ has worked in collaboration with dancers, composers, choreographers, and multimedia artists on a variety of large-scale productions. "Phulkari" (2018 - Kiran Bhumber, director) sought to express the many manifestations of South Asian cultural memory in the West through dance, music, and interactive projections. "Give" (2017 - Carlos Funn, director), a production fusing modern and African dance that celebrated rage, remembrance, & healing in marginalized communities, featured AJ as musical director and drumset player.

As a classical musician, AJ participated in the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival in South Africa in 2015, and has performed with the New York Philharmonic ("Off the Grid" chamber music series in Ann Arbor, 2017), the International Contemporary Ensemble ("Resonant Bodies Festival" in Chicago, 2018), Yarn | Wire (University of Michigan M-Prize Residency), and various premiere ensembles at the University of Michigan including the Contemporary Directions Ensemble, the UM Percussion Ensemble, and the Chamber Jazz Ensembles. He performed as timpanist for two US Tours with the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps in 2013 and 2014, winning the Fred Sanford Award for high percussion in 2014.

AJ served as Percussion Director at Krum Middle School in Krum, TX during the 2014-2015 school year and held a private studio of nearly 50 students during his time in Texas. He has served as a front ensemble instructor for Argyle High School (2014 Texas 4A State Champions), Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps, Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps, and the UNT Green Brigade Marching Band, where he also served as an arranger and audio engineer.

AJ attributes his fulfilling life as an artist to his supportive family, as well as his many mentors and teachers over the years, including Jared O'Leary, Chris Reidy, Christopher Deane, Paul & Sandi Rennick, Mark Ford, Dave Hall, Jose Aponte, Poovalur Sriji, Ed Smith, "Doc" Schietroma, Jonathan Ovalle, Joseph Gramley, and Michael Gould.

Photo by Michael Covey

Photo by Michael Covey