drummer. educator. liked to hit things.
Brian Hamada – closet cowbell enthusiast, drummer and jazz educator – performed with numerous jazz & pop music legends both traditional and contemporary, including Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Larry Koonse, John Beasley, Gilad Hekselman, Bobby Shew, Ernie Watts, Bud Shank, Bob Mintzer, Tim Ries, Michael Davis, Carmen Bradford, Brian Lynch and Ingrid Jensen. As a member of the legendary CSU Fresno Jazz Band ‘A’ he toured Japan, Korea and Europe, performed at the Northsea and Montreux International Jazz Festivals, and in 1983 he was the recipient of a DownBeat jazz soloist award. (Other winners that year were Larry Grenadier, Vince Mendoza & Jeff Beal.) He was an active jazz and drum clinician / adjudicator throughout the west coast for over 25 years and maintained a vibrant drum studio in central California. He presented numerous clinics, workshops, and master classes on jazz drumming and was passionately committed to music education at all levels.
Brian taught jazz drum set at CSU, Fresno in the Department of Music’s Jazz Studies degree option. From 2012 to 2016 he directed the Milestones Advanced Small Group for the Milestones Youth Jazz Workshop, founded to provide more opportunities for local Fresno-area students to learn & play jazz. He was also on the faculty of the Milestones Youth Jazz Summer Camp.
Since 2005 he drummed with the modern jazz group “bug“, featuring saxophonist Peter Epstein, pianist/composer James Miley, guitarist/composer Jeff Miley, and bassist Roger Shew. The group’s third CD “The Optimist” was released in October 2015 and received international airplay and critical acclaim.
Locally (in the Fresno area) he performed regularly with The Craig VonBerg Trio, The Richard Giddens Trio, The Benjamin Boone ‘Evolution’ Quintet, The After Dinner Mints, and held down the drum chair for the Fresno Jazz Composers Orchestra.
For over 30 years he performed with virtually all of Fresno’s best jazz and pop musicians at one time or another, and was honored by the local music community as “best drummer” at the “Contemporaries”, hosted by the “Wild Blue” nightclub in 1990. During that era he played regularly with Aqua Bob, No Prisoners, Bill Bixler & Leslie Letven, Jim Bixler, George Roessler, Folly’s Pool, The Dodger Haters, CSUF Alumni Jazz Band “A”, and many more.
His extensive show drumming skills had him backing legendary artists as varied as Andrea Bocelli, Regis Philbin, Don Ho, Eartha Kitt, Bob Hope, Jerry Vale, Dick Contino, Sons of the San Joaquin, The Tokens, Red Skelton, Bob Newhart, and Joan Rivers, just to name a few.
At the age of 58, Brian passed away in August 2019. A jazz education scholarship has been set up in his name at CSU Fresno. Please mail donations to: College of Arts and Humanities, 2380 E. Keats, M/S MB 99, Fresno, CA 93740. Indicate “Brian Hamada Scholarship Fund” in the memo line.