Instrument(s): Bass Guitar, Drums, Piano
City: Washington, DC
Education: Guilford College
Donovan Duvall is a multi-instrumentalist (drums and keys), producer, and composer. He began playing music at the age of 9 by joining the orchestra in the percussion section at his school. In middle school, he started playing drum set in the rock band at Sidwell Friends School. After listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, and Muse, Donovan knew he wanted to pursue music. After entering high school, he joined the jazz band and his life-long intrigue into Jazz began. Listening to “So What” by Miles Davis, specifically spurred Donovan’s decision to study Jazz at college. At Guilford College his love of jazz and hip hop then led him to learn production, composition, and his secondary instrument, piano.
Since graduating in 2016 with a degree in jazz percussion and performance studies, Donovan has performed on stages from Los Angeles to New York City. He’s an active member in 8 groups in the D.C. area ranging from rock bands to bossa nova mixed with hip hop. He’s currently working in his debut EP, a blend of jazz, hip hop, r&b, soul, and indie. In addition to playing live, he’s helping produce records for artists spread throughout in the DMV area.
It was after hearing D’angelo’s album “Voodoo”, Donovan’s percussive style was transformed, as he stresses to play expressively and with feeling. Following the example of drummers like Brian Blade, Donovan strives to play with musicality and dramatic dynamics. He feels the most important skills a musician can have is the ability to listen well and adaptability. Donovan teaches his students how to express themselves through percussion with whichever style they feel drawn to. Whether it be rock, jazz, latin, or any other style, Donovan’s main focus is to ensure learning music is a joyful practice, not a stressful one. To help students start their percussion study, the methods he uses are “A Funky Primer,” and “Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer”. These methods help beginners feel more comfortable around the drum-set and with how to learn how to read music as well. As students advance, his students will learn songs they want to learn by ear or by written notation.
Throughout college, Donovan also studied piano in order to better communicate with fellow musicians and as a tool to write music. It also had a big impact on his mallet percussion work, as the piano layout and notation is a big part of this instrument group. Taking his learning of music theory and jazz harmony, Donovan has become fluent in the styles of R&B and Neo-Soul, as well as traditional classical foundations. His background in percussion led him to find that the piano is inherently a percussive instrument as well, and he merges concepts between the two instruments frequently. He believes the most important things to learn first on piano are a good sense of rhythm and harmony. Donovan is a big fan of the Alfred piano method to help beginners learn the topography of the piano easily and learn how to read music from the start of study. After establishing foundations of pitch and rhythm, he uses a combination of learning songs, music theory, exercises to help his students excel.
Overall Donovan believes music is a tool to be used to spread joy and to better oneself. He strives to help students keep the “play” in playing music! Through his musical study and practice, Donovan’s life has been changed by music, and he wants to help others feel the same. Helping others express themselves through music is what drives him to be an excellent teacher. Donovan has experience teaching ages as young as 3 and up. He welcomes students of any age or skill level!