Celebrating the life of legendary musician and Fresno State jazz teacher Brian Hamada

Brian Hamada sits behind his drum set (Photo courtesy of Joe Osejo Photography)

According to family, local jazz drummer, teacher, and musical mentor Brian Hamada passed away on August 10th, 2018.

Brian’s daughter, Madeline Hamada said on Facebook, “For the past few years, my family has privately and quietly struggled through my dad’s battle against cancer. Whether you knew about our journey or not, we thank you for standing by us throughout the process. You have probably, unknowingly, been a shoulder to lean on.”

Although Hamada is no longer here with us physically, many members of the community are relishing the opportunity to continually celebrate the life of this extraordinary man. His family has announced a “Celebration of Life steeped in music” on September 2, 2018, at 4:00pm at the Fresno Buddhist Church, Family Dharma Center, in Clovis, as per Brian’s request.

Friends and colleagues express how Hamada has impacted their lives and that they will remember him with sincere appreciation.

Bay Area percussionist Jim Santi Owen referred to Hamada as a “Zen Jazz Drummer” who sparked his lifelong love archeology/genealogy.

“It’s because of him that I dug even further into studying forms of African music and sideways into Indian music and other non-Euro/American traditions,” said Owen. “My story is not unique. Brian taught and mentored hundreds. My love to his wife and children and to all of his musical colleagues, protégés, and fans. All he gave to me, I will do my best to pay forward.”

“I’m heartbroken over losing my friend, but the whole community is grieving the loss of the greatest drummer and overall musician most of us have ever known and had the pleasure of playing with. Over the past 40 years, we played together in too many groups to name, but some notable ones are CSUF Jazz Band ‘A,’ Aqua Bob, No Prisoners and After Dinner Mints. He was and continues to be an inspiration to me. In my playing and my compositions, an ever-present voice in my mind asks, ‘Would Brian think this is cool?’” said Craig VonBerg, jazz pianist, and Fresno State music instructor.

Brian Hamada at Maximus Media in 2013. (Joe Osejo Photography)
Brian Hamada at Maximus Media in 2013. (Joe Osejo Photography)

“Brian taught our jazz drummers at Fresno State from 2009 through Spring 2018.  He was a great musician and the first-call jazz drummer in the Central Valley for years. He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him,” said Matthew Darling, Fresno State Music Department Chair.

“With an approachable, complex, and inviting multiform rhythm, Brian created a community of colleagues and students who were infused with his love of jazz,” said Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.

Hamada taught jazz drum set within Fresno State’s Jazz Instrumental Performance program and was a member of Fresno State’s legendary Jazz Band ‘A,’ with whom he traveled internationally, and performed with at the Northsea and Montreux International Jazz Festivals. In 1983 he was the recipient of a DownBeat jazz soloist.

Within the Fresno community, Hamada regularly performed with the Craig VonBerg Trio, the Mike Dana Trio, and the After Dinner Mints. He was also the drum chair for the Fresno Jazz Composers Orchestra.

Hamada’s studio drumming can be heard within jingles for local businesses including Good Company Players, Table Mountain Casino, KMPH, The Big Fresno Fair, Fresno Distributing, and other regional and national advertisers.

Hamada is survived by his wife and fellow jazz lover Lori and his two children Madeline and Evan.

For those wishing to express their condolences, Hamada’s daughter Madeline writes:

“At Dad’s request, we have set up the Brian Hamada Scholarship Fund to support Jazz Performance majors at CSU Fresno. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating.”

You can make checks payable to Fresno State Foundation (note Brian Hamada in the memo) and mail to:

College of Arts and Humanities
Development Office
2380 E. Keats Ave. M/S MB99
Fresno, CA 93740-8024

Or give online at http://bit.ly/BrianHamada

  2. Select OTHER
  3. Type in the AMOUNT and BRIAN HAMADA in the box to specify the gift
  4. Proceed to input contact and credit card info

Photos courtesy of Joe Osejo Photography

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