Star Drummer Comes Home to Houston to Play Warehouse Live With St. Lucia — Dustin Kaufman Follows the Music
HSPVA Alum Enthusiastically Embraces Roles as a Versatile Musician and Music TeacherBY Ericka Schiche // 11.05.22
Drummer Dustin Kaufman, a native Houstonian, established his virtual music school Dustin Kaufman Music in 2020, and continues his work as drummer for St. Lucia and other groups.
The band St. Lucia plays an eclectic mix of synth pop, electro pop, funk, jazz, rock and soul with a contemporary twist.
St. Lucia is currently touring with an upcoming stop in Houston in support of the band's latest album Utopia, released in 2022.
The band St. Lucia has appeared at Coachella and various television shows including Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
St. Lucia drummer Dustin Kaufman, originally from Houston, got his start as a jazz drummer at HSPVA. He has played drums since the age of 9.
Three phrases which describe the musical ouevre of New York City-based band St. Lucia are: joie de vivre, creative risk-taking and escapism. In reference to the escapism, drummer Dustin Kaufman notes: “I think of the arts as an escape, in a lot of ways.”
Originally from Houston, Kaufman is returning to the Bayou City this Wednesday, November 9th for a show with St. Lucia at Warehouse Live in support of the band’s latest album Utopia. Kaufman cites Coachella as his favorite concert gig with the band. The band has also performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Good Morning America.
As a band, St. Lucia explores the synergistic relationship between disparate musical elements and genres. What often results music-wise is a fusion. Kaufman calls it “the umbrella category of synth pop with other diverse influences like world music, jazz, funk, soul and rock.” The album Utopia counters the dark dystopian feel of this era with lively retro ’70s and ’80s sounds. And it represents an uplifting embrace of both change and imperfection. As well as a forward thinking, happier outlook.
Of course, the seeds of reinvention were planted by St. Lucia co-founders, South African musician Jean-Paul Grobler and Patti Beranek. Although known as a New York City band, the husband and wife duo of Grobler and Beranek moved to Germany at the height of the pandemic. And Kaufman himself spent about six months in his hometown of Houston during COVID.
Kaufman met other members of the band — which includes keyboardist Nick Paul and bass guitarist Ross Clark — while they all attended The New School. In addition to St. Lucia, Kaufman has also been part of other musical groups such as Moon Boots and VHS Collection.
But even with all his various NYC music connections and experiences, Kaufman remains a Houstonian at heart. He once shared a poignant video of himself floating on a canoe through murky post-Hurricane Harvey waters with his dad Stanley Kaufman. He recently returned to Houston to help celebrate his father’s 80th birthday at a party hosted by his sister Erica Levit (a former PaperCity design editor and current co-owner of Wellville in Round Top).
“I love going back to Houston because I still feel like a Texan,” Kaufman says. “As far as just people-wise. You know I feel more comfortable in some ways when I’m in the South or Midwest. Just the culture and the way people are.”
Additionally, Kaufman credits Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts as the birthplace of his dreams in the world of music. The drummer’s mom Elizabeth Kaufman encouraged him to attend HSPVA. While there, he was inspired to continue drumming after watching fellow student Jamire Williams masterfully play drums.
Kaufman himself is also a masterful drummer who is versatile enough to play a range of styles and genres. That means everything from rock to jazz, funk and electro pop. Kaufman is even adept at gospel drumming — a skill he honed at a Black church in Brooklyn for five years.
Within an acoustic version of St. Lucia’s song “Love Somebody,” one hears Kaufman’s approach to bossa nova-style rhythmic patterns. The ostinato — along with a slower tempo — beckons the listener to travel sonically to Brazil. It is the kind of drumming which reminds me of one of my favorite Brazilian drummers Papete. Notably, it also inspired me to rediscover the music of master bossa nova drummer Milton Banana.
Talking shop, so to speak, Kaufman has an affinity for the work of several other drummers.
“For jazz drummers, (Hard Bop legend) Philly Joe Jones, who played with Miles Davis’s first quintet. Definitely Top 5,” Kaufman says. “I love Jeff “Tain” Watts, who played with the Marsalises for a while . . . And, then, this drummer Steve Gadd.” Gadd’s solo during Steely Dan’s “Aja” is legendary.
But aside from his role as music aficionado and drummer, Kaufman seems most proud of his work as educator teaching students. Especially through his music instruction business Dustin Kaufman Music and his work with the Down Syndrome Community of Puget Sound. He discussed his music school with Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph during Episode 36 of Randolph’s That Will Never Work podcast.
“The kids are just so enthusiastic and pumped up,” Kaufman says of his work with Down syndrome kids. He learned of the organization from his fiancée Nalima Touré, who asked if he would be interested in working with special needs kids. He met some of the kids during a recent tour stop in Seattle.
Dustin Kaufman is a man of music.
St. Lucia is playing at Warehouse Live this Wednesday November 9 at 8 pm with Bayonne as the opening act.