5 Questions for Luke Notary ’96

Travis and Luke

We welcomed Luke Notary ’96 and his band House of Waters to perform at last Tuesday’s special assembly and to hold workshops with jazz and world music students. Based in Brooklyn, House of Waters is composed of Max ZT (hammered dulcimer), Moto Fukushima (6-string custom Fodera bass), and Luke (percussion).

1. The buzz on campus is about your performance—it was fantastic! How did you and your band mates come up with the name House of Waters?

We have many musical influences from around the globe. We’ve all traveled a lot to hear and study music. The world is becoming a much smaller place. House of Waters comes from the idea of different rivers converging into one point and mixing. We wanted to create a feeling of home. The house. The house where the waters are converging.

House of Waters

2. I love the idea of the name, and completely agree—the world is getting smaller. How does music uniquely position you all to celebrate the opportunities provided by the world being a smaller place?

We have people from many different places approach us after performances and say things like “That sounds like music from my country.” It creates a connection. Music is the universal language. When you mix styles it becomes an easier language to understand. It gives us the opportunity to connect with Africans, Indians, Chinese, Argentineans, anyone. It gives us the opportunity to study with them too. We dedicate many of our songs to the people we have learned from. I lived on a Hopi reservation for a month, and have named many of our songs after Hopi words. DJs play our albums on radio stations there. It’s great to have that connection.

Luke in Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai

3. Do you only perform as a group or do you do things individuals?

We all play with many different people. We’re studio musicians who do recording sessions. We play with bands that we don’t write for. We do different tours. Max studied for many years in India and Senegal. Moto has performed with Joe Lavano and Dave Weckl. I toured all over the world with numerous projects, including Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai for a year in a half. House of Waters is the group that we all write for collaboratively.

These days it’s not unusual to have many different projects—it’s how music works. It’s less that way in rock and roll, but it’s pretty common for drummers and percussionists and bass players who have versatility. It’s also necessary to make a living.

"At home with my toys."

4. You were a musician at MA. How did your experience here influence you, both as a musician and as a person?

I played drum set at that time—I was in rock band and world music ensemble. I was very fortunate to have this education. I didn’t realize at the time, but it’s clearer now that I teach in high schools in Brooklyn. There is a big difference between MA and most other schools.

Having the opportunity to do minicourse week was huge. I did circus skills one year, and did Vision Quest twice. That was pretty amazing. Having small classes and a really strong science education really helped with my music. There is a lot of support for free thinking and outside-the-box thinking, and that’s definitely what I got here. Also being exposed to new things at special assemblies. Zakir Hussain performed while I was here. It was my first exposure to tabla. I studied at Ali Akbar College of Music after seeing them perform at MA as a student, and then went on to Berklee College of Music.

Having freedom was a big part of my success, and having support. They don’t let you do bad here. You know what I mean? If you’re not doing well, you get the help you need to fix it—yourself.

5. What advice would you give to a high school musician?

Practice as much as you can now—you only get less time later in life. If you get married, have kids, et cetera, forget about practicing three hours a day. Don’t procrastinate on practicing.

Check out African music—it all comes from there. There are so many different regions—Africa is a huge place. All of the music we have is traced back there. It’ll help with anything: jazz, classical, whatever.

Don’t be afraid to play music with reckless abandon. Sometime you see young kids who are really good at their instrument and it’s scary—it’s awesome. I hear them and I think, “These kids are going to pass me up if they keep going.” Go big with your playing. Play with passion.

Connect with Luke on his website lukenotary.com.

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About Travis

Head of School, Marin Academy.
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