Andrew Licata ’16 draws on experience to pursue drumming career

Andrew Licata 16 is an all-around musician and one of three drummers for the Princeton High School Studio Band. Since coming from Santa Barbara, California as a sophomore, Licata has become an integral part of the PHS Band program. After graduating high school, he will be attending The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music. In addition to playing with the school band, Licata plays professionally in the Princeton area and played with the pit orchestra in this year’s musical.

When did you get started on the drums?

I started playing around sixth grade. I was in a rock camp originally for guitar, and one of the drum teachers … recommended that I start playing drums.

What has inspired you as a drummer?

Certain artists, such as Benny Greb, are really big inspirations to me… I just love music. It’s a really strong passion, and I always strive to be as good as I possibly can be. Even when I was little, I would always push myself to get to that next level.

How would you say music has shaped your life?

My whole life revolves around my practice schedule. I’m going to college … at [The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music], so it’s shaped it in the biggest way possible.

How do you balance music with other aspects of your life?

I don’t …  Although I do my homework, I see music as my top priority, so I always try to make sure that I have the most time to practice. I think time management is a big part of my life. As long as I have time to see my friends, do my homework, and get at least two to two and a half hours of practicing on the weekends and about one and a half hours in on weekdays, then that’s a pretty good schedule.

Have you done any music-oriented summer programs or clinics that have really helped you as a musician?

Recently, I went to a master class in upstate New York held by Benny Greb, who [was] my childhood hero. It was a three day weekend with him and it was really incredible. I got to spend a lot of time with him, talking to him not only about music but about his own life. It was pretty amazing. I’ve also done certain camps like the the Litchfield Jazz Camp, which I went to last summer. [It] was interesting because surrounding yourself with an environment of only musicians always makes for an interesting time.

So, I understand that you came from California when you were a freshman. How is music, especially jazz, different there than from here in New Jersey?

So there’s always been this big talk about West Coast jazz being different from East Coast jazz, but I didn’t really see what makes West Coast jazz “different” while I was living there. That said, I was only just getting into jazz when I lived in California. I started really focusing on it when I moved here, but I wasn’t really exposed to any of that while I was living there. When I lived in California, I was really into The Police and rock groups of that style. In fact, the first artist that ever really inspired me was Travis Barker, who is a punk rock drummer and the drummer for the band Blink-182.

Does listening to a lot of music help you as an actual musician?

Definitely. If you want to be a successful musician, It’s really important to understand all types of music and be able to express yourself through any of them. Especially as a drummer, there are are so many different styles that you are required to know to be even thought of as a successful musician.

How has your time in our school’s bands helped you as a musician?

I think it has really put a lot of pressure on me to get to the next level. It’s a good way to accelerate my playing in an efficient way. You only get this much time to get this good for this competition. In that sense, it helps a lot. However, at our school, I feel like band is not so much music, but a sport … I think all of us in the band program really realize that, including the band directors … It’s just a game you have to play. I think it’s helped a lot, but I am excited for a new music scene when I graduate out of this program.

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