Kent-Meridian drummer adds rockin’ beat to ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

When directors of the Kent-Meridian High School orchestra, jazz band, choir or drama department need a drummer, they turn to Brad Hill. Hill, a senior, plays drums in the school's musical "Little Shop of Horrors" that runs at 7 p.m. May 5-7 and 11-13 at the Kent-Meridian Performing Arts Center.

Kent-Meridian drummer Brad Hill performs during a rehearsal for the school's musical 'Little Shop of Horrors' that opens May 5. Hill also plays in a band outside of school that recently performed in Austin

Kent-Meridian drummer Brad Hill performs during a rehearsal for the school's musical 'Little Shop of Horrors' that opens May 5. Hill also plays in a band outside of school that recently performed in Austin

When directors of the Kent-Meridian High School orchestra, jazz band, choir or drama department need a drummer, they turn to Brad Hill.

Hill, a senior, plays drums in the school’s musical “Little Shop of Horrors” that runs at 7 p.m. May 5-7 and 11-13 at the Kent-Meridian Performing Arts Center.

“The kids were excited that he was going to be the drummer,” said director Jay Thornton. “When you hear him play, he’s rockin.'”

This marks the first musical for Hill. Thornton knew he had a true drummer when he saw Hill cleaning his drums before rehearsal and practicing drums during lunch.

“It’s those moments when you know who is serious about their art,” Thornton said.

Hill takes drumming so seriously that he plans to pursue a music career after graduating next month from Kent-Meridian. He’s played in the six-member band Seize the Sun since his freshman year.

“I think what I’m going to do is ride out this band thing as long as I can,” Hill said during a interview before a recent rehearsal. “It’s a once in a lifetime chance to experience what I’m experiencing.”

Hill plans to head in July to Texas to tour with Seize the Sun, a Kent-based electronic metal band managed by Seattle promoter Joe Gingerella. The group traveled in March to play at the Texas Rockfest in Austin, which runs at the same time as the South by Southwest festival.

“That was really intense,” Hill said. “It was a whole different experience playing outside. We got some record label attention. Three Los Angeles companies watched our last show.”

If a career as a professional drummer doesn’t work out, Hill has a backup plan. He said he might attend The Art Institute of Seattle for sound engineering.

“But I’ve spent the majority of my high school career attempting the band thing to be a quote unquote rock star,” he said. “And I’m the one who’s levelheaded in the band. We’re pretty popular, but nothing is concrete. I’m keeping my options open.”

Hill became interested in drumming when he learned how to play the snare drum in the fifth grade at Panther Lake Elementary. That’s the reason he’s a strong supporter to keep elementary music programs part of the Kent School District. The Kent School Board had looked at cutting the program next year until a community uproar persuaded it to find elsewhere to cut because of budget shortfalls.

Hill got his first drum set in the seventh grade. When he joined the Seize the Sun band two years later, he became hooked.

“That’s when I realized I wanted to stick to drums and music and what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.

It didn’t take long for Hill’s reputation as a drummer to spread around Kent-Meridian.

“If the orchestra or the choir needs a drummer, I’m the go-to guy,” Hill said. “I can play whatever they need to play whether it’s jazz or 1950s funk (that he plays for the musical).”

It’s been a fun experience for Hill to play for the “Little Shop of Horrors,”  a rock musical, by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman, about a hapless florist shop worker who raises a plant that feeds on human blood.

“It’s totally different,” Hill said. “I have to wait for vocal cues and cues from the actors. There’s even a part where the snare drum is a gunshot, so I’m a sound effects guy, too.”

The play of Hill and the rest of the band helps make the show a thrill for fans.

“It’s a spoof and the music is rocking,” Thornton said. “It’s a lot of fun. If you’re tired of stereotypical musicals, this isn’t one. It’s a live one.”

If you go

What: “Little Shop of Horrors” musical

When: 7 p.m. May 5-7; 11-13

Where: Kent-Meridian Performing Arts Center

Cost: $10, $8

Tickets: At the door


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