Hixson High drummer "jams" with jazz great Doc Severinsen - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

SCHOOL PATROL: Hixson High drummer praised by jazz great Doc Severinsen

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - A Hixson High School drummer recently got the thrill of a lifetime, performing with jazz trumpet legend Doc Severinsen of NBC "Tonight Show" fame.

At age 17, Cameron Perkins is being compared to the all time greats, by someone who's played with them all. 

Earlier this year, Perkins was selected to perform with Severinsen at the All State East Jazz Clinic at Walker Valley High School in Charleston, Tennessee.  The high school junior still can't believe he swapped solos with one of the most famous trumpet players in the world.

"It's fun to listen to what Doc will play, get into the rhythm, try to match up with him, and keep up with him, it was a fun thing to do," Perkins said.

But it was also a natural thing for Perkins to do. He got his first drum set at age 10, and has been tapping away ever since.  He says there's always a song in his head, and he loves practicing his craft.  His hard work has paid off.  As a member of Hixson's award winning band, he earned the privilege of playing with the best, and being compared to the greats.

At the Charleston performance, the 84-year-old Severinsen played long trumpet solos on the big band classic, "Sing, Sing, Sing," performing with the enthusiasm and energy of someone half his age.  He was noticeably impressed by Perkins, who was featured in several drum solos during the song. 

"Doc" saluted him during the song, and afterward called Perkins "brilliant," comparing him to drum legends Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson and Ed Shaughnessy, all of whom played on the Tonight Show during Severinsen's 20-plus years as Johnny Carson's orchestra director.

At the end of an epic, crowd-pleasing nine-minute performance, Perkins was called to the front of the stage to shake hands with Severinsen, who he had seen on numerous YouTube videos with his drumming idols.  "That was amazing," Perkins said. "I thought to myself, you can't compare me to Buddy Rich and those guys, but he did."

Perkins has one more year at Hixson, likely followed by a music scholarship, and a lifetime with the sticks.  He's considering the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, "which has a great music program," Perkins said.

Hixson band director Matt McHenry said, "He has a great future behind the drums.  It is something he truly loves, and practice is not something he makes himself do.  That's a band director's dream."

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