Percussion For Worship: What was your musical training as you grew up in Puerto Rico?
Javier: I started taking percussion lessons at the age of eleven at a performing arts school in San Juan. I started drumming at church a year later and continued playing music and traveling across Central and South America all through my teen years. I have a Bachelor's degree in Percussion Performance from the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico and a Master's degree in Jazz Pedagogy from the University of Miami. My musical training and experience are very diverse and full of varied influences.
PFW: What drew you to move to Nashville?Javier: I moved to Nashville in January of 1999 upon receiving a phone call to tour with the band TRUTH. Moving to Nashville was never in my long term plans but the call came at just the right time for a fresh start and a change of scenery. After the tour ended, I felt God prompting me to remain in Nashville and follow His lead. This was a free new start indeed!
PFW: You’ve backed some well-known Christian artists. How about dropping a few names?
Javier: Back in the mid 90's, I had the opportunity to play with Ron Kenoly in a couple of festivals in Puerto Rico. In 1999, I played percussion in a tour that included 4Him, Russ Taff, and Wayne Watson. I also played for Travis Cotrell, Ronnie Freeman, Nestor Torres, and many others.
PFW: I heard you playing with the Annie Moses Band a few years ago. There are a lot of styles being played in that show. Tell us a little about playing drums and percussion with that ensemble.
Javier: Playing with the Annie Moses Band gives me the opportunity to put into practice everything I learned in school and every previous musical experience. Growing up, I played in many churches and with a wide variety of ensembles. AMB's arrangements are extremely musical and require great sensitivity and creativity. Drum parts are not specifically written for me so the end result is typically a combination of many ideas tried and worked out during rehearsal and recording.
PFW: I understand that you have an interest in some “expanded techniques” on the cajon. Please share a little about your cajon ideas.
Javier: I love to play the cajon! It's one of the most versatile hand drums out there. I was introduced to the instrument in Peru a few years ago and to the flamenco cajon shortly thereafter. First of all, it is very important to know the difference between the two instruments and the techniques and applications of each one. I've studied some of this techniques and use them in playing the cajon in all kinds of musical situations. I also add a hi-hat, tambourine with a pedal, and shakers to play more of a drum set/percussion part in acoustic and semi-acoustic settings. Using a combination of hands and left foot (playing the hi-hat in more of an open hand technique between it and the cajon) allows me to play any kind of pattern imaginable. You can make this instrument as personal as the sticks you play.
Javier Santiago endorses and plays with joy:
Longo Custom Solid Shell Snares