Arizona native AJ Covey is passionate about exploring the musical manifestations of cultural, social, and spiritual identity. He has studied and performed in India, Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa, and several countries in Europe. AJ is a proud alumnus of the University of Michigan ('18), the University of North Texas ('16), and the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum & Bugle Corps ('14)
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AJ Covey is an eclectic artist living his best life through performing, studying, teaching, and sharing a wide array of musical traditions with people all around the world. As a firm believer in the connection between art-making and personal identity, AJ strives to reconcile the angry & confused years of his adolescence with a calling to an artistic life grounded in cultural music practices, queer artistic expression, and the divine power of groove.
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. AJ's breakthrough 2016 collaboration "Shores" explored the effects of the refugee crisis amid the Syrian Civil War on the collective conscience of the West.
AJ has traveled to study several indigenous musical styles, and has received over $10,000 in grants to pursue these important cultural experiences. In 2017, he spent a month at the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement in Mysore, India where he studied Carnatic percussion with Vidwan H.L. Shivashankar Swamy. Later that year, he spent three weeks in Bali, Indonesia studying both Balinese and Sundanese gamelan traditions with local artists. Armed with hundreds of pages of ethnographic field notes, AJ coalesced these experiences into a lecture entitled “Perspectives on teaching and learning 'world' music: Addressing the radical shift in cultural context when teaching foreign musical traditions in the Western conservatory," which served as the Capstone project for his Graduate Certificate in World Performance Studies at the University of Michigan. AJ has performed in South Africa at the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival (2015) and has explored the vibrant personalities of Singapore, Bangkok, and Dubai.
As a classical musician, AJ 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 also holds master's degrees from UM in both percussion performance and chamber music (2018). In 2015, AJ premiered Christopher Deane's wild performance piece "The (New) Rube Goldberg Variations" on a Focus Day concert at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. 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 started his journey as educator in 2006 giving piano and drum lessons to kids in his neighborhood. As a high school student, he started an after-school drum line program at his alma mater, Centennial Middle School, which is still in existence today. He later pursued a bachelor's degree of Music Education at the University of North Texas, which led him to serve as Percussion Director at Krum Middle School in Krum, TX during the 2014-2015 school year. AJ has had over 50 students in his private lessons studio since 2013, with former students attending Texas Christian University, the University of North Texas, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Juilliard Summer Percussion Seminar. He has served as front ensemble instructor for Argyle High School (2014 Texas 4A State Champions), Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps (2015-2017), Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps (2015), and the UNT Green Brigade Marching Band (2015), where he also served as front ensemble arranger and audio engineer.
AJ attributes his fulfilling life as an artist to 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, Jonathan Ovalle, Joseph Gramley, and Michael Gould.