Six new judges have been added to the Celebrity Judging Crew for the 2016 Hit Like A Girl global drumming contest. These include Aaron Spears, Allison Miller, Kimberly Thompson, Senri Kawaguchi, Samantha Maloney, and Jordan West. They are all part of a team of judges that will evaluate twenty finalists in the under 18 and 18+ divisions of the contest between March 27 and April 6, 2016. The winners will be announced live on a DrumChannel special show on April 13, 2016.
Public voting to choose finalists begins March 14.
Aaron Spears is one of the most respected gospel and funk drummers in the world. His love for music began in church, where he got his first exposure to drumming.. As a kid he took lessons for a week but became immersed in the study of music in high school, when he joined jazz band and learned to read notation. Exposure to great drummers like Vinnie Colaiuta led him to research into Steve Gadd, Dennis Chambers, Dave Weckl and others.
In the summer of 2003 he was asked to audition for Usher’s band The Funk Rock Orchestra. That opened doors for him and since then his recording and touring credits include the Gideon Band, Chrisette Michelle, Chamilionaire, David Cook, Joanne Rosario, Lil Wayne, Carrie Underwood, Usher, Jordin Sparks, Brittany Spears, Chaka Khan, Adam Lambert, Israel Houghton and others.
Los Angeles-based Kim Thompson is a renowned jazz and pop drummer and multi-instrmentalist who has performed all over the world. Kim began playing at age ten and was the drummer in her high school band. She next graduated from Manhattan School of Music in 2003 where she received a degree in jazz composition.
Since then she has performed and recorded with many top artists including Wallace Roney, Kenney Barron, Mike Stern. She also was part of part of Beyoncé’s first all-female band, where her explosive soloing made an impression on a generation of drummers. She also has performed or recorded with artists such Jay-Z, Meshell Ndegeocello, Destiny’s Child, Kanye West, Terri Lyne Carrington, Roy Hargrove, and others. and was the original drummer in the 8G band (Late Night With Seth Myers). Kim released her first solo album, Like Clockwork, in 2010. Look for a new release from her in 2016.
Senri Kawaguchi was a child prodigy in Japan, starting on drums at the age of five and then studying under the famous drum guru Mr. Kozo Suganuma when she was eight years old. She began winning contests and appearing on Japanese TV in 2007. At the age of 12 she started performing with the fusion band Fragile and released a DVD Horoscope. At that time she also posted her first YouTube performances.
In 2013 while still in high school Senri released her first album A La Mode which received positive reviews in Japan. In 2014 she formed a new unit Kiyo*Sen with organist Kiyomi Otaka. Their release Chocolate Booster, also garnered raves.
Samantha Maloney is a well-known drummer who has been in many top bands including Hole and Motley Crue Samantha began drumming at age 5 and later attended the Fiorello LaGuardia School of Music and Art (the “Fame” school) in New York. At the age of sixteen, she auditioned for the post-hardcore band Shift as a replacement drummer. At the same time she was playing basketball and had to choose between music or serious sports scholarship offers. Fortunately for us, she chose music.
In 1998 she was invited to join Hole after drummer Patty Schemel left the band. That led to tours around the world until Hole went on hiatus in 2000. Later stints followed with Motley Crue, the all-female supergoup The Chelsea, Queens of the Stone Age, Courtney Love (solo), Peaches, The Herms, and others, the Ingenues, a re-formed version of The Chelsea called Chelsea Girls, Billy Ray Cyrus, and others. Samantha is multi-talented having worked as a drummer, musical director, band manager, actor in movies and the series “Californication,” and currently is the Vice-President of Artist Relations for Warner Brothers Records in Los Angeles.
Jordan West is a drummer, vocalist, and songwriter based in Los Angeles, CA. She works as a freelancer and studio musician in addition to being a Product Specialist for Roland Drums and Percussion (and a former Hit Like A Girl contestant). On drums, her roots lie in jazz and r&b, but West is comfortable in all genres, from ragtime to progressive rock and everything in between. Her list of favorite drummers includes Steve Gadd, Steve Jordan, Elvin Jones, Mark Guiliana, and Chris Dave. As a songwriter and vocalist, she is driven by emotion, drawing influence from a wide array of musical interests – she listens to everything from Cher to System of a Down to Amy Winehouse to Herbie Hancock. Her original music has been featured on WBKE, WCRD, WBOI, 98.9 The Bear, and Indy InTune radio stations, among others. She recently won a songwriting contest sponsored by Avid and Sweetwater Sound. In her own group, West utilizes her passions for songwriting, drumming, and singing simultaneously. She is also currently serving as the group’s manager and booking agent. The band’s newest, self-titled album can be found on iTunes and Spotify.
New York-based jazz bandleader Allison Miller is widely praised for her stylistic authenticity and ability to make any musical situation her own, whether she is leading her band BOOM TIC BOOM, playing with legendary songwriting vocalists Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile and Natalie Merchant, or touring with avant-garde saxophonist Marty Ehrlich and legendary organist Doctor Lonnie Smith.
Raised in the Washington D.C. area, Miller began playing the drums at the age of ten, studying with Walter Salb, and was soon thereafter featured in Downbeat magazine’s “Up and Coming” section in 1991. Five years later, after graduating from West Virginia University she moved to New York City to study with Michael Carvin and Lenny White and pursue what has become a fruitful career as a freelance drummer, composer, producer, and teacher.
Allison holds teaching positions at The New School, Kutztown University, and Jazz Camp West and has taught or delivered clinics at more than two dozen universities around the world.