Amazing 8-Year-Old Drummer Boy — Julian Pavone

Featured Article, Incredible Kids, People
on May 29, 2012
Adam Baudoux

Julian Pavone, 8, drummed up a world record at age 5, and the musical prodigy from Macomb, Mich. (pop. 79,580), keeps earning fame and acclaim for his innate and incredible rhythm.

“He’s a phenomenal player,” says percussion coach George Dunn, 59, about Julian, who in 2010 was certified as the youngest professional drummer by Guinness World Records. “He plays songs that a pro would play, note for note, from beginning to end.”

On his 22-piece custom drum set with 17 cymbals, Julian lays down the groove on Chicago’s “Make Me Smile” during one of his thrice-weekly lessons. His hands and feet are a blur as he drums one classic rock hit after another: Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” Toto’s “Rosanna” and Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” He knows the beat, rolls and clashes to more than a thousand songs.

“I have a lot of fun,” says Julian, who performs with other musicians and also plays solo concerts and for charitable events.

Julian revealed an uncanny sense of rhythm before he was born, according to his mother, Lisa, 36, a medical doctor. “When I was pregnant, I’d take my headset and put it on my stomach,” Lisa says. “I remember listening to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and I felt him kicking. It was so regular it was like a metronome. I’d take off the headset and he’d stop. He really liked the Beatles.”

Julian’s father, Bernadino, plays drums and was practicing one day with 3-month-old Julian nestled in a baby carrier on his chest. “He just reached up and grabbed the drumsticks and started playing,” says Bernadino, 47.

By 6 months, the little drummer baby was playing drum rolls on his high chair, and at 9 months received his first drum set. At 15 months, Julian auditioned with the Cleveland Cavaliers United Drum Line and was offered a contract, becoming the youngest member by 16 years. Four months later, the toddler performed with the group before a crowd of 20,000 during a halftime show.

That publicity led to Julian recording his first CD, Go Baby!, with legendary Detroit bassist Ralphe Armstrong, and to television appearances, including Good Morning America, The Martha Stewart Show,  Maury and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

All that attention doesn’t unnerve the drumming wonder boy. “I sometimes make a mistake, but barely,” says Julian, who practices five hours a day, seven days a week.

Julian’s talents go beyond music. The second-grader, who attends University Liggett School in nearby Grosse Pointe Woods, has received patents for Abracadabra Stain Cover-Up, a correction fluid in a drum-shaped container with a drumstick applicator, and Julian’s Drum Gloves, which feature interchangeable fingertips that produce different sounds.

“I was watching Led Zeppelin, and John [Bonham] was playing drums with just his hands and I said, ‘Why doesn’t he have drumstick tips on his fingers?’” says Julian, who sketched the original drawing of the gloves.

Bernadino manages Julian’s career, which has become a full-time job and includes product endorsements. For instance, Vic Firth, owner of a Boston company that manufactures drumsticks and mallets, designed Julian Pavone Signature Series drumsticks in the boy’s honor.

“I met Julian’s dad at a drum corps affair and Julian must have been about 2,” recalls Firth, 81, a former timpanist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. “His dad told me Julian was a drummer and I said, ‘uh, huh,’ but then I saw him play. It’s definitely a God-given talent.”

His instructor agrees that Julian was born with a musical gift. “He’s a natural player,” Dunn says. “He just sits down and hears music and makes sense out of it. What he’s done with his life in seven years is pretty remarkable.”