Sammy K is not only a phenomenal drummer, he is a phenomenal human! Every time I hear Sammy play, he lifts me up. Every time I hang out with him drummer to drummer and friend to friend, he also lifts me up. That’s what it’s about.
Sammy has the perfect combo of talent, compassion, great vibes, a passion to learn and a desire to inspire and teach..
Our hunger to learn and to continue to grow in our God given talents, is a crucial part of how we survive as working musicians. Sammy epitomizes that hunger to learn, expand and grow..
I would recommend Sammy K for any gig at any time.
Gregg Bissonette - LA recording session and touring drummer
Member since 2008 of Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band
One night I went to sit in on drums with my friend Neil Morrow’s band. After watching a few songs with Sammy K on skins, I left the bar, went home and practiced for about 3 weeks straight! I don’t like it when drummers are better than me. Way better! I was kidding about going home. I stayed and played a few tunes. Sammy couldn’t have been more supportive and generous. I asked if he would give me a few lessons and I’d pay him in cigars. He agreed and we’ve been good pals ever since. Sammy is the real deal drummer. The drummers, drummer and one of the most professional musicians I’ve ever seen.
Multi-award Winning Actor/Beach Boys Drummer/Producer/Director
What can I say about Sammy K. Great groove, Great feel and a Great guy. I dig playing with Sammy K.”
Bassist with Bruce Hornsby/ The Pointer Sisters and more
Sammy K is a terrific Educator and Musician who can swing a big band like nobody’s business, and then easily turn around and instill confidence in a group of inexperienced young Drummers who previously exhibited doubt and frustration. Sammy is a prime example of someone for whom dedication, perseverance and hard work has paid great dividends not only for himself but for all associated with him.
Bruce Jacoby - Remo, Inc. / Manager of Marching and Education
Sammy is a soulful drummer with a beautiful touch. He has an otherworldly gift for understanding a wide variety of musical genres- he can lay it out like Buddy Rich or pound it down like Bonham. He gets a song and knows how to help take it somewhere while never getting it the way. He is classy and kind, positive, and has a blast playing. He is also a very good driver.
Acclaimed Artist and Songwriter
I have been working with Sammy K for quite some time now and he is an AMAZING drummer! Not only is he incredibly talented and extremely professional, he is the kindest person you’ll ever meet. Sammy is well versed in playing many different genres of music and knows how to add just the perfect touch to make the music the best it can be. I am so grateful to be able to make music with such a talented musician, but I am also very blessed to be able to call him a friend.
Amanda Castro - Vocalist
Amanda Castro Band
Sammy K pours his commitment for music education into every clinic, seminar, session and show he does. His can-do spirit has inspired countless drummers and future performers around the world.
Greg Crane - Manager of Artist Relations, Acoustic/DTX Drums
Yamaha Corporation of America
From student to first call pro … that’s how I know Sammy K! At some point in every conductor’s career, they look back with curiosity at the percussion section. Sometimes that look is one of shock, and other times it is a look of wonder and delight. Sam was “my drummer” at Michigan State when I arrived on the faculty in 1989, and I was the benefactor of his presence. From the most sophisticated marching band licks, to the ultimate swing, groove, funk, rock, jazz machine behind his kit. Sammy K the performer does it all. To add to his incredible existence, Sam has been blessed with the incredible gift of effectively and profoundly teaching students of all ages. He composes, arranges, produces, and collaborates. All who consume Sammy K universally know and agree that above and beyond all, he is a great guy! I associate the phrase “total professional” with Sammy K! I am so proud to call him my friend for over 33 years!
John Madden - Emeritus Professor of Music
Michigan State University
Sammy K is one of the best live and recording drummer/ percussionists I’ve ever had her pleasure to work with! His ‘time’ is perfect and his taste is impeccable. He is incredibly innovative, too, which makes him all the more of a treasure to a song guy like me. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s one of the nicest guys I know!
Multi-Platinum Award-winning Recording Artist and Songwriter
Sammy K is a top notch talent!!! His training in the percussive arts and his desire to share his talent with the world is inspiring!!! Sammy and I met at the 2007 NAMM Show and ended up hanging out all weekend and becoming friends. Sammy K can play all styles of music with conviction and authority and has the ability and desire to share those skills with young student musicians. Sammy will always be one to watch!!!
Multi-Award winning drummer for Jason Aldean and Nashville Studios
So here’s the thing about Slammin Sammy K. He doesn’t often slam. In fact, when he’s not playing the perfect Steve Gadd or Buddy Rich solo, he’s on brushes, behind our sextet, smooth as silk. Next thing you know, he’ll pump out a blues riff to perfection. And when he’s not playing, he’s educating. “Slammin” is in the repertoire, but there’s OH so much more! Sammy is simply the best at his craft.
The Mann Sextet/Mann Group Radio
First rate musicianship, teaching, and groove! Sammy came in Swinging from the first downbeat! He was equally comfortable driving the big band, interacting with the faculty combo, or coaching the Drum students. He connected with everyone at the gigs and at the camp. His infectious personality, energy, and tireless groove have earned him an open-ended invitation back whenever he can make it. One of the most versatile and musical drummers out there! A true pro’s pro!
Dr. Scott Belck - Director of Jazz Studies-Cincinnati Conservatory of Music-Associate Professor
I have been thoroughly spoiled playing with Sammy K. In all honesty, every Drummer after him falls short: precision with a heart and soul impossible to find anywhere else.
Levi Kreis- 2010 Tony winner Independent Artist
Sam “Slammin’ Sammy K” Kestenholtz is the real deal! He is a complete, versatile and experienced drum set player and clinician. He can confidently cover all styles with authenticity and the appropriate sound and groove. AND, he is humble and a terrific communicator, so he his also great as a guest clinician/adjudicator at festivals and workshops. His passion for the drum set and drumming is contagious! I recommend you check him out!
Dr. Stephen Zegree - School of Music, Western Michigan University
As you walk around this earth, you step in faith as your feet stay firmly planted on the floor or ground. Drummers provide a similar perspective in music because everyone stands firm on a Drummers groove, sense of time, and emotional interpretation of the music. Sammy K is a provider of Good Earth and is a wonderful example of how one can step in faith.
Will Kennedy - Grammy winner Yellowjackets
Assistant Professor of Practice - USC Thornton School of Music
With Sammy, it’s about 2 things: the MUSIC and the STUDENT. Period. He gives the impression that every day he finds himself lucky enough to wake up in the morning and spread the gospel about making great drumming happen. It doesn’t matter whether the student is a hotshot Conservatory cat or a middle schooler just starting out, Sammy approaches the deal with the same passion, the same enthusiasm, the same spirit of giving that enables students of all levels to gain maximally from being in his presence. It’s not about Sammy, it’s about the music. Not Sammy’s music, THE music. You’ll not find a finer example of sharing and caring and giving people a leg up in the whole world. Simply put, Sammy K is a delight to be around, and the compassion he shares with students gives everyone he touches the best shot at being all they can be.
Northern Kentucky University
Working at REMO I encounter many artists. It is always a pleasure when a persons incredible talent and musicianship matches their character. Sammy K is a good guy and one of the hardest working drummers I know.
Mike DeMenno - REMO Inc
Manager of Remo Music Center
Sammy came in and sight-read the book like a real pro. His dynamics were sensational AND he swung his a*# off!
Mark Buselli - Co founder, writer and arranger for the Buselli/Wallarab Jazz Orchestra
Professor of Music Performance (Jazz Studies) / Director of Jazz Ensembles
What can I say? Ditto Ditto Ditto to all the other testimonials about his playing, talent, positive energy, hard work, chops, passion for music, skill, intelligence, kindness, patience, versatility collaborator, experience, and fun to play with. No matter the style, genre, and feel he can do it. I can’t imagine playing gig without him. He is a joy to play with and create music. I’m grateful to know him.
Actress and founder of Annie & The True Blues
The orchestra’s rhythm section is heard to great advantage behind Sammy K’s range of percussion variations that swing with an empathetic surge.
Review of Nancy Osborne's "Hot Swing, Cool Jazz" CD
Sammy has worked with the kids from Campbell Collegiate for several years now. He’s professional, engaging, and a lot of fun. His ability to connect with kids is second to none, and I plan to use him for years to come. It’s great to have his fun loving musical spirit involved in the Campbell music program.
Scott Peters - Director of Instrumental Music
Campbell Collegiate - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Sammy K is one of the most musical players I have ever worked with. He always brings a freshness and inventiveness to every session and gig I have ever hired him for. Not only does he play his natural ass off, but the attitude and work demeanor he brings with him guarantees that it will always be a pleasurable experience, both musically and personally. I can’t say enough good things about him. Oh yeah, I almost forgot – he’s pretty good for a White guy…
Ted Perlman - Grammy winning Producer - Arranger, Composer, Guitarist
Sammy K is a dynamic and knowledgeable artist-teacher. He is a perfect fit with the standard of excellence associated with the INTERNATIONAL MUSIC CAMP. We are proud and pleased that he has joined our summer staff!
Joseph T. Alme, CFO
INTERNATIONAL MUSIC CAMP
We are very proud to have Sammy K on our team. I have seen him pull out the best in students through inspirational playing and teaching. He is a powerful and passionate educator and musician.
John Wittmann - Senior Director, Artist Relations & Education
Yamaha Corporation of America
Sammy did an incredible job with the students, both in his drum clinic and his coaching sessions with several of the bands here at the festival. His enthusiasm is infectious, as he clearly has the time of his life behind the drums. The MU Jazz Band had an absolutely fabulous time – and a fabulous experience – with Sammy ‘driving the bus’. The band never swung harder.
James Olcott - Director
Southwestern Ohio High School Jazz Festival
The BWJO has rarely sounded so loose and expertly dangerous with Los Angeles Drummer Sammy K launching fireworks as well as a steady drive.
Review of Buselli/Wallarab Jazz Orchestra's performance at the Indianapolis Jazz Festival