Today we’d like to introduce you to Ray “Quasi” Nelson.
Ray, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far. As I graduated from Florida A&M University in the spring of 2015, my parents and I had an idea to host a percussion clinic in my hometown of West Palm Beach as a way to give back and Inspire the young percussionist in the community. I was preparing to move to Los Angeles, CA and felt, what better way to pay it forward before beginning this new journey. On August 3rd, 2015, Synergy Percussion Clinic was born. On the first day, we (my mentor and Assistant Director, “Tovah Tj Lovely”) had only four students but by the end of the week, we were up to about 20 students and at that moment, I knew we had something special and unique.
When I was growing up in West Palm Beach, I attended Palm Beach County Drum Camp directed by Samuel Rolle. This camp taught me so many things at an early age, but I had no idea that I would grow to have a camp of my own. I knew with my career I’d have to teach to a certain extent, but never wanted to be a teacher, per se.
As each year passed, the camp continued to evolve into something greater and we managed to build genuine relationships with the students. I called on a lot of my friends in the music industry to come in and impart wisdom and the necessary tools it takes to be successful in life and the industry. What makes Synergy unique is that we aren’t just a drum camp. We wanted to offer a unique experience to students that they weren’t getting in the school system. By using Drumline and Percussion as the driving force or “bait” if you will, students also receive detailed insight on what it takes to be successful in the music industry as a whole. We teach music production and engineering, professional development skills, financial literacy, and social media marketing and branding. Students are able to interact with some of the very influencers that they aspire to be, many of which are close friends of mine. Along with 6 designated clinicians from all over the country, we have had GRAMMY nominated Drummer Jamison Ross, GRAMMY award winner, Jahaan Sweet, multi-platinum producer/artist Dubba-AA (who is a palm beach native) and many other special guests come in to speak and give masterclasses throughout the camp.
This year, we are celebrating five years of serving the community.
Our MOTTO is “All Together As One” Synergy is about building a network and bringing people together from different walks of life, different skill levels to accomplish one goal… being a better musician and a better person.
Has it been a smooth road? It hasn’t always been a smooth road but that’s with anything in life. Stepping into the non-profit field wasn’t something I thought I wanted to do or planned to do but it came with the territory. Living on one coast, and running a business on the complete opposite has been a challenge. I have a team of friends who lend a helping hand when I need but a lot of the work that takes place months before the camp is mainly all on me(again, to whom much is given much is required). It’s been years when I’ve been on tour all year, and even during the camp but had to make the necessary adjustments to assure that I was in place or my staff could operate without me. We are blessed to have a lot of support in the community but it hasn’t always been easy to raise funds which caused me to have to invest a lot of my own funds. Along with that, in the beginning stages, a lot of paperwork was filed incorrectly or went missing, causing us to miss out on a lot of grant opportunities. These mistakes, turned out to be blessings in disguise and because of it, I am much wiser as a businessman, and we are stronger as an organization.
Please tell us more about what you do, what you are currently focused on and most proud of. I wear many hats. Growing up in a family of musicians, I gravitated to the drums at a very early age. By the age of three my parents saw that this wasn’t just a little boy who liked to beat on things, but an obsession and a passion. My grandfather was a drummer so he immediately took me under his wing and begin to teach me lessons. By the age of ten, I was marching with a high school AND middle school band, appeared on many stages and competitions throughout Florida, performed at The Apollo Theatre in New York and won PAX tv’s America’s Most Talented Kids.
Fast forward to my twenties, I have served as one of the youngest drummers to tour with The Count Basie Orchestra, in which an album I had the privilege recording with the band received a GRAMMY nomination in 2018. Following my time with the Basie band, I was chosen to be the drummer for R&B artist Kehlani and went on to tour the world with her for almost two years straight. During this time I began to pick up steam as a music producer, collaborating with other producers and artist. Credits include artist such as A-Boogie, Kodak, Kris Hollis, Joyner Lucas, Trap Manny, Nick Lamar and others.
Ive also made a co-star role on the second season of BET’s THE QUAD where I played Jaz, the son of the band director Cecil Diamond.
So yes, I wear quite a few hats throughout the day, depending on what the weather calls for. LOL
So, what’s next? Any big plans? My plans are to simply continue to evolve in all aspects of my life. Spiritually, mentally, physically and my career of course. The goal will always be to give back in any way I can, especially in my hometown. “Lift as we climb”, a quote that I grew up on but learned even more after pledging Omega Psi Phi in the fall of 2013.