You Should Know… Sammy Rabinowitz

Photo courtesy of Sammy Rabinowitz

Sammy Rabinowitz was 4 when he started playing drums. He hasn’t missed a beat since.

Now 17, Rabinowitz is studying instrumental music at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington. He’s a member of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington and a former student at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. Along the way he picked up the piano, mallet percussion and drums, and helped found the band Dark Trilobite.

Can you talk about your musical experience?

I started training in classical percussion about five years ago. It started when I went to a performing arts camp and I signed up to play drums in the pit orchestra for a musical. They gave me my music, but they messed up and they gave me a percussion part instead of a drums part with marimba, xylophone and tambourine. I ended up just learning how to play it. I switched to Duke Ellington to go to music school and now I get to do it four hours a day as a part of my school curriculum, so I got a pretty good deal.

How did Dark Trilobite start?

My first band was Dark Trilobite which started when I was 8 in 2011. It was through a music program at Bach2Rock and I met these random strangers who played music and we started a band. We were in Bach2Rock for a while and then we started getting good and winning Battle of the Bands. We won it our first year, and then again, and then again so we finally decided that we didn’t need Bach2Rock to develop us as a band anymore. Now we’re self-managed, self-run. We practice twice a week, schedule our own gigs. We wrote our EP in 2019. Just last February we released our next song, “Wishbone,” which has already surpassed 5,000 streams on Spotify.

Why the name Dark Trilobite?

We came up with it when we were super young, so it’s quirky. But once we started sounding good, it was too late to go back.

What are your future plans?

I’m really hoping to do music for my whole life. It’s going to be my focus in college, even though I’m unsure of what degree and what major I want to focus on. Music is the goal. Probably as a solo artist, but there’s lots of capacities you can do music in not as an artist. I write my own music and sing a lot of my own songs. For Dark Trilobite, I think we’ll play out our high school years and then it’ll probably dwindle off there. We’re not pursuing it as a career together.

What are some things you are proud of?

I’m proud of “Wishbone,” because of the insane reaction that it’s gotten. At school, I am the percussion section leader and I have been since my sophomore year, which is pretty cool. I’m proud of becoming section leader at such a young grade, which is super uncommon. I’m proud that my work has paid off in marching band: I’m the first person to transcribe the cadences [musical phrases], and because they’re going to have them forever, I scanned all of them with “Transcribed by Sammy Rabinowitz.” I’m also writing a sixth new cadence for us to play next year.

Can you speak about being a student at Duke Ellington?

I’m getting a different education than the type of music I’m looking to go into. I grew up in rock music. I’ve started dabbling in pop/contemporary music that I write on my own. But when I’m at school, I’m getting trained in classical percussion, classical music and, just recently, jazz. It’s very weird, but at the same time it makes me well rounded and I don’t think there’s anything better than being a well-rounded musician. No matter what genre you want to go into, you can pull from everything and you’re trained in everything and it will make you so much better at that one thing you do. But school is insane, because we have all of our academic classes, our music classes and then marching band. It’s very grueling, but it’s awesome so I can’t complain.

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