Drummer Bernie Capodici is a tough man to get to know. Not if you ask him though, he’ll say it’s all pretty simple. Bernie is a Philly street wise, no frills, no BS kind of guy. With a brusque hearty laugh and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, he has a charm all his own. Underneath the gruff exterior there lies a soft heart of gold. Nothing is more important to him than family; and his voice softens when he speaks of them. His wife Karen and three daughters, Alia, Reina and Kira rule Bernie’s world. It has always been about family and music with Bernie, from the time he was a child. His first music teacher was his dad, who himself was a well-known drummer working with The Four Aces and Louie Armstrong. Bernie’s dad sat him down at three years old and had him practice every day. Bernie got a taste of the music scene as a child when his dad took him to the clubs when he gigged. But Bernie’s talent didn’t stop with music, he was also a great tap dancer. He even ended up being a child star on the hit Philly TV show, The Discophonic Scene, along the lines of American Bandstand (which also began in Philadelphia a decade earlier), starring Jerry Blavat , referring to himself as “the Geator with the Heater” and “the big boss with the big hot sauce.” I asked Bernie how he got started with music and dance.
Tell me everything about being a tap dancer. Seriously! I want to know
I was pushed into it by my Dad who also pushed me in to drums, I guess I had some rhythm …lol, I did lots of recitals and of course I was the only guy at Mary Jane’s School of Dance but it laid the ground work for my abilities to pick up popular dances and that’s why I did so well on the TV show, I had my own thing and about eight years of schooling. Tap gave me an incredible sense of timing.
They did eventually make a movie about Jerry and us and the show, here’s a clip from the movie The In Crowd, the guy in the blue shirt is an actor playing me…lol he did a good Bernie too…lol
So, you didn’t like tap dancing?
I liked being on stage…lol I did like tap but I was more interested in like the Hines Brothers, Bunny Briggs or Harriet “Quicksand” Browne styles, Mary Jane style of tap was more akin to Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly. I liked getting down and dirty and standing in one spot with complicated technique. The addition of modern dance moves was not my thing.
By the time my tenure was over on the show I pretty much felt let down, the only thing I can compare it to that people can relate to is that the kids on the show had as much notoriety as the kids from American Idol in proportion to the difference in time and technology. it was my choice to leave mostly because there was a new crowed and I outgrew the show and Mod was the new rage so I was excited to move on, that’s when I seriously started pursuing a career in music.
Bernie’s abbreviated bio is impressive to say the least…
Trained by his father Charlie Capodici from a very early age Bernie got to cut his teeth in popular club bands at the tail end of the 60’s..Capodici’s formal education started at the University Of Utah where he began studying percussion and delved into the world of Latin Percussion. After school Bernie moved to the West Indies (Dominica) to commune with the natural feel of the rhythm of the islands, when Bernie then began studying with the well-respected and noted bass player Joe Butara, Conga player Harry Hawkins and studied theory & piano and composition with David Anchor from Juilliard Capodici has made special appearances with such notables as Chuck Reiney, Dexter Wansel, Jonathan Cain and most recently Justin Guarini. Capodici has recorded with such luminaries as Bob Baldwin and most recently Andrew Neu & Justin Guarini.
Bernie’s current band is DrivetimeUOJ.
If you ask Bernie about music, family, his band who he loves like brothers, and the future, he doesn’t hold back.
How do you feel about the direction of the music industry today?Do you think you have more opportunities as an independent artist than other musicians your did 20 years ago?
No, if anything I believe it's much harder. 20 yrs ago people were more personally connected to their favorite bands and the music, it was more of a community and you didn't have internet channels. Napster wasn't even invented yet so if you wanted new music you had to go out and get it. However, as far as the industry goes, 20 years ago (and trust me, I was there) we didn't have the ability to market ourselves independently the way we can today. I monitor daily roughly about twenty different outlets for our music which include Facebook and Twitter. Today's music, as it has always been, is the fight for numbers, and in this respect it hasn't changed a bit.
Do you buy CD’s Vinyl or digital singles, or do you mostly listen to
streaming platforms like Spotify and Pandora?
I do it all, depending on what I'm looking for either something I like or research and also I like to help support our local Record shop, where people get to listen and talk about what's new, old, good, bad; it's refreshing. Human contact, what a novel idea.
Who are some of your musical heroes and influences?
First off anyone who's ever had a hit tune, no matter what genre they're from, to touch that many people at a particular point in time, is the magic of music. Then there's Miles Davis...lol Mongo Santa Maria, Potato, Herbie Hancock, The Beatles, Blood Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Parker, Dizzy...get the picture? I had a very diverse childhood. My Dad was a jazz drummer and had me playing at 4, so jazz is what I grew up on; but then came the sixties and all bets were off.
When did it dawn on you that you want to be a professional musician?
Up until I was 24 or 25, I had had it with music. I thought What am I doing, life is passing me by…then I started thinking, am I doing this because dad made me do it? It comes naturally to me, but why am I doing this?I really needed to know if it was me or if I was living out my dads dream. I decided that it was me. It was me who had the interest and laugh and giggled when I executed something well. If it’s going to be a lifelong vocation, it has to come from your heart.
Regrets-not become a flute player…dragging my crap from
place to place…all my equipment…
Do you teach music?
There are some people who are born teachers, my wife is a wonderful teacher, and that’s great. I can’t stand it. I don’t know if it was the way my dad taught me or not…all my teachers I enjoyed and became friends with but for me, when it comes to teaching, I have no patience…probably because I have no patience with myself. My mind is just in other places.
You’ve had a long diverse career. What is your favorite project that you have
ever worked on?
Not a fair question. But if I had to narrow it down it would have to be the "I Believe In Miracles" tour in France for a children's cancer hospital there. It's like the French version of the Make A Wish Foundation and we raised enough money to send the children from Clocheville Hospital to Florida to swim with the Dolphins at the Seaquarium, go deep sea fishing. The basic idea was to give the children some new experiences, allowing them to put their illness aside for ten days and just enjoy!
What keeps you going every day and what is your biggest inspiration?
I can't separate myself from my music, it's who I am. My wife and I fell in love from her coming out to see the band I was with. My kids to this day come out when I'm playing. Its a family affair as they say, it's just who we all are. My biggest inspiration is that my children will be left a memory of their father that is positive and respectful of others; how to love what you do and work hard to get it.
My question to Bernie and all the artists that I work with: Why should anyone care?
For Bernie, it’s simple; because he does. And he has spent a lifetime proving it.
Justin Guarini sings, ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’ accompanied by Drivetime on ‘The 10 Show’ in Philadelphia. 10-1-09