Playing the blues no sad feat for Chicago teen drummer

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CHICAGO — Caleb Marcella’s favorite subject may be math but there’s no division when it comes to his love for music.

The 14-year-old is playing the blues and enjoying every minute of it.

“It’s really just soulful music,” Marcella said. “It has some meaning behind it.”

Caleb Marcella

Marcella is standing out in a music genre dating back 150 years because he plays with professionals while just starting high school. Not yet 15, he’s already played alongside music legend Katherine Davis, a Chicago blues mainstay. Known for fostering young talent, she has taken Caleb under her wing to mentor.

One would think that comes with heavy-duty pressure but Marcella explains, it’s not as stressful as it may seem.

“She’s super chill,” he said of playing with Davis. “It’s just great playing along with great musicians and learning from them.”

Now a student at the Chicago Academy for the Arts, Rachel Brown, head of the school’s music department, tells WGN she is excited about Caleb’s passion for all types of music.

“The academy has provided a very modern approach to music education but he’s also getting this very traditional old school style,” Brown said. “Fifty-one young blues performers are being trained by older musicians just by playing with them.”

Gail Patrick, Caleb’s mother, says her son’s fascination with music began as a toddler at festivals.

“He would watch the musicians but he was focused on the drummers,” Patrick said. “Several times, the drummer gifted him their sticks because they recognized something in him.”

It’s why Caleb’s parents have encouraged his musical path. Now, he playing with seasoned pros.

“All they tell me is that I’m really good at what I do,” Caleb said. “So it’s always a work in progress for me. But they just keep telling me to ‘keep going, you sound really good, you’re truly really good at playing drums.'”

It’s proof for some that when you find your rhythm in life, having the support to foster it, pays off, even when your passion is the blues.

“I’m excited,” Brown says, “to see where he goes.”

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