Local Music Monday: Justin Cornelison

Jan 23, 2017

This week on Local Music Monday DeBraun Thomas talks with drummer and percussionist Justin Cornelison.

Justin Cornelison
Credit Fugue State Productions

Justin Cornelison is a native of Berea who moved to Lexington in 2014. His father was a drummer and he started playing music at a very young age, but he says he didn’t get serious about it until he was almost out of high school.

“Junior year of high school they accidently scheduled me and I went to the director and I was like ‘ay, I’m gonna drop the class cause I’m obviously not supposed to be here,’ he goes ‘actually I need another bass drummer if you want to play drums’ and he taught me how to read a quarter note, eight note and a sixteenth note and that was it and then I like made everything up for the entirety of the next two years and then I went to college at Berea College and started taking it a little more seriously and started studying with Tripp Bratton, under Tripp, I just completely became immersed over the next four years.”

Studying music has also let him to become a teacher himself. In addition to leading the youth choir at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, he also teaches students through other organizations like the Central Music Academy and Lexington Parks and Rec. As a teacher, he says, while his style of instruction might be unconventional, his goal is to show each student not just how to play, but how to feel the music.

“A lot of how I teach is via route, I use the books and everything like we need to, like, every student has to have a certain repertoire, but you spend a lot of time saying ‘ok, I’m gonna show you this rhythm, you give it a try, alright, well ok, try not to be so stiff, loosen up, fluid, water, that kind of thing’ and I think that’s how it kind of blends, the concept of feel along with technique, I think it blends that way.”

When he’s not teaching music, Cornelison performs with different bands around town. The two he is most known for are DAD, short for Damned African Descendants and Frustrate. Both bands are different stylistically, but Cornelison says they both have goals of accomplishing the same thing, outside of music.

“They kind of have the same ideals, like DAD is kind of that, anecdotal narrative, we’re describing life as a brown person or a person of color, whereas Frustrate is really, aggressively, denouncing the discriminatory predator, if you can ever discern any of Nick’s [Pulliam] lyrics, he’s calling out bigots, it’s the more in your face version of the protest against the rising discrimination in this country and in this world.”

Justin Cornelison performs with DAD, which stands for Damned African Descendants and Frustrate. More information about Cornelison and his projects can be found at lexingtonmusicproject.wordpress.com or at SambaLex.org. Cornelison will be performing in the production of Dream Girls at the Kentucky Conservatory Theatre until January 29th.