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Jamaica Plain’s Jarrell Campbell has Blue Man beat

Jarrell Campbell at the Blue Man Group Boston’s 3rd annual Drum-Off Competition.Caroline Talbot/Photographer

Age: 24

Hometown: Houston, now living in Jamaica Plain

Think of: A funky young Buddy Rich. John Blackwell’s Latin/R&B/prog style; Keith Moon’s groove and showmanship.

What caught our eye: The Berklee College of Music student won Blue Man Group Boston’s 3rd annual Drum-Off Competition earlier this month. After wowing both crowd and judges with his killer two-minute solo — including some crazy stick tricks — Campbell rocked the Outside the Box Festival with the blue dudes.

Lightbulb moments: The first: “When I was 5, I saw a friend playing drums, a kid not too much older than me, and I was like, That’s nice. That’s dope.”


The second: “After I graduated high school [in 2010], I didn’t want to play anymore. I was planning on going to veterinary school. But after I entered Guitar Center’s Drum-Off [in 2011 in Houston] I said, I think I want to do this music thing. My dad, it was his dream to go to Berklee, but he ended up staying in the business realm. He’s an accountant in Houston, but he also plays the sax. My dad has been telling me since I was 5, ‘If you want to do music, you have to go to Berklee. That’s where all the top cats go.’ ”

Biggest Thrills: Winning the Blue Man Drum-Off and getting invited to play SXSW with his band the Victor in 2014. “I’d been to South by Southwest before as a concert-goer, so it was weird to have access to everything as an invited artist. It was just awesome.”

Biggest surprise: “I would still have to say the Blue Man Group,” he said with a laugh. “It was just special how it all came together. I entered on a whim — I saw a flier at the [Berklee] Student Activity Center, and come to find out, the deadline was that day [at midnight]. I rushed home, uploaded the videos and submitted at 11:58 p.m. The next morning, they sent me an e-mail: ‘You’re in the semifinals!’ At the semifinals, I thought, Oh my God, I did a horrible job. And that night they told me, ‘Hey, you’re in the finals!’ And [during the finals,] I thought, Man, I’m so terrible! What am I doing here? And then [I won] and everyone was just shaking my hand. It was all just awesome.” Plus, he won $6,000 worth of gear, including a new drum kit — score.


Inspired by: Chris Coleman, Boo Boo Carter, John Blackwell — and whatever he sees that strikes him: “My YouTube and Facebook [handle] is ‘The Chop Bandit,’ because whatever I see that I like, I’m like, whoop! That’s mine. It’s been added to the repertoire.”

Aspires to: “Be one of the greats.”

For good luck: “I pray. I’m like, Jesus, Lord help me!”

What people should know: “I’m going to do something weird.” And he means that in the best way possible. Watch him play blindfolded on YouTube, for instance.

Coming soon: The Berklee student is currently busy “working an arrangement for a Berklee video production that will be featured on their YouTube channel and website.” But he noted, “whenever I get called for gigs, I’ll post it up on Facebook.” Stay tuned.


Lauren Daley

Lauren Daley can be reached at