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Young Ohioan to play in pre-award shows



Published: Mon, February 7, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Ohio drummer is going Hollywood with his Grammy celebration gig.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- An Ohio teenage drumming phenomenon goes Hollywood this week with a gig at music celebrations leading up to the 47th annual Grammy Awards.

Steve Renko, 15, of nearby Euclid, was among 29 American and Canadian high school musicians selected to participate in a series of jazz ensembles leading up to next Sunday's nationally televised awards for recording artists.

The performances won't extend to appearing on the show, but the young musicians will get a chance to attend the ceremony, spokeswoman Barb Dehgan with the Recording Academy said Friday.

The teens will rehearse early in the week and perform at jazz clubs Wednesday and Thursday and at the pre- and post-broadcast celebrations on awards night. They will play with five-time Grammy winning vocalist Al Jarreau and four-time Grammy nominee saxophonist Dave Koz.

Early start

Renko, a student at Cleveland's St. Ignatius High School, has won accolades for his talent since age 9, playing in local clubs and national drum competitions. At age 12, he became the youngest drummer in the history of Cuyahoga Community College's High School All Stars band in Cleveland.

At 13, he brought down the house in Chicago's Hard Rock Cafe, beating 11 adult drummers to win a regional drum-off.

"He's a true example of prodigy," said jazz pianist Joe Hunter of Cleveland Heights. "It makes you wonder how someone so young could play at such a mature level."

Hunter and local jazz bassist Dallas Coffey played with Renko on a taped audition for the Grammy Foundation in a nationwide competition.

"I'm not nervous," Renko said. "It's more like excitement."

At age 9, Renko began studying with renowned drummer Bob McKee, 77, of Parma. McKee has taught generations of great drummers, including Ray Porrello, who had been in Sammy Davis Jr.'s band; Tom Dobeck of the Michael Stanley Band; and David Beal, who accompanied Joe Cocker.

When he first heard Renko play, "I said, 'Oh, yeah, this has got to go somewhere,'" McKee said. "He's exceptional, and he learns quickly."




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