Soda Can - United States
Stephen Chopek was banging on pots and pans as a toddler, so it was natural that at a young age he was ready for a drumset, and soon after, for classical percussion studies. By age 15, as a member of the Bergen Youth Orchestra, he had performed throughout New Jersey and New York at venues such as Carnegie Hall.
An inquisitive musician, Stephen also drew on lessons acquired in rock groups and his high school's jazz program. Making the short trip from New Jersey to New York City, he would visit clubs to hear the legends whose music he was learning by day.
Later, while a student at William Patterson University, he continued todevelop by performing with the university's percussion ensemble, which took on demanding scores by composers like John Cage and Edgar Varese. After graduating, he decided that to achieve his potential, he needed a more direct method oftransmission, one attuned to his eclectic sensibilities. It was at this time that he set out to make contact with some of the drummers who inspired him.
That effort led to studies with Billy Martin, of Medeski Martin and Wood. Martin recognized Chopek's creativity, and encouragedhis interest in the infinite possibilities of the drumset. As a result, Chopek found himselfincreasingly attracted to unorthodox methods of sonic experimentation. It's adirection that can be heard on his recordings with The Fireworks Collage Project and on his self-titled solo CD (both available from Perhaps Transparent Records at perhapstransparent.com). Chopek's most fateful musical encounter also happened around this time: a letter of introduction and a recording of his playing dispatched to Leon Parker elicited an invitation to study with the acclaimed percussionist.
"Leon threw me into new situations, pushing me to step up to the next level. He had a lot of confidence in me, and kind of took me under his wing," says Chopek. "Leon would have me sit in at bassist Ugonna Okegwo's jam sessions and at his gigs with players like saxophonist Virginia Mayhew." Parker, a winner of Downbeat polls and the New York Jazz Critics' Circle Album of the Year award, helped him find his musical voice and the confidence to unleash it.
Stephen soon earned a leading role in Parker's Vocal Body Percussion Ensemble, which for its premiere was commissioned to create a performance for Central Park's 1999 Summerstage series. Shortly after, Parker was calling on him to perform with eight-string guitarist Charlie Hunter. It was through those sessions that Stephen was invited to play percussion on Hunter's latest Blue Note Records self-titled release. By the time the recording was complete, he had been asked to join Hunter's trio.
Stephen was a member of Charlie's band from 2000-2002. Shortly after his final gig with Charlie, Chopek began touring and recording with Grammy Award winning singer songwriter John Mayer (2002-2003). Stephen performed on Mayer's 2003 release Any Given Thursday. Since then, he toured and recording with The Alternate Routes (2005-2007), Jesse Malin (2004-2005), Marc Broussard (2003), and many others.
Equipment ConfigurationMasterworks Series
22x16 bass drum
16x16 floor tom
14x5.5 snare drum