Lucas Adler: From the slopes to the drum riser

Courtesy photo
Lucas Adler of Charlotte plays drums in the band Kilimanjaro.

When Lucas Adler was a 12-year-old in Massachusetts, his drumming teacher told him he had to make up his mind.

If he was serious about music, he would have to spend more time with his drums and less time on the ski slopes. Adler’s family had taken him on weekend ski trips to Vermont since he was a toddler, and he had developed an interest in ski racing.

He gave the ultimatum some thought and decided that music was something which could be done at any age, while a skiing career would have age limitations. He opted to focus on skiing. Now 56 and a professional drummer, the Charlotte resident has had the best of both worlds.

Adler spent his senior year of high school at Burke Ski Academy and was awarded a spot on the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team. He received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Vermont. But as his interest in skiing waned, he began to gravitate back towards music.

Adler, who also played tennis competitively, hasn’t regretted his early decision to focus on sports. He continues to enjoy skiing but concedes that he probably skis too fast and wears clothing reminiscent of another era. “I’m the guy I used to laugh at when I was a kid,” he said.

After college, Adler became part of a two-musician family with his then-wife Christine, playing in a group called the Porcupines.

In 1994, the band Kilimanjaro invited him to audition. “I never left after that,” he recalled. “Although it took a year before they told me I was their drummer.”

He has been with the band for over 20 years, but Adler is still considered the new kid. The rest of the musicians have been together since the late 1970s and he is their fourth drummer. The artists who make up Kilimanjaro also double as the Unknown Blues Band, playing jazz fusion with the former and blues with the latter.

Adler moved to Santa Barbara for a few years in the early 2000s and even quit playing the drums while working as a home renovator.

“Like all musicians, I’ve had to pick up many skills to survive,” he said.

Back in Vermont in 2007, he got a call from his old bandmates who had been booked for the Discover Jazz Festival. He rejoined them as they recorded “Homecoming,” their first album in years. It was named Critic’s Choice by Jazziz Magazine.

Adler has travelled with the group to Holland, France and even Indonesia for the Java Jazz Festival. While still a member of Kilimanjaro and the Unknown Blues Band, Adler joined another local band called Eight 02 which rose to number five on the Smooth Jazz Charts and toured as far away as Russia. He enjoyed his time with the group but they disbanded two years ago.

Adler remembers the first time he saw Kilimanjaro in concert. They had been signed as a warm-up band for the two-day Killington Jazz Festival, which then-16-year-old Adler attended. The band was so well received that they were invited to play the next day, too.

“They don’t like to be reminded that I was 16 when I first saw them,” Adler said. “Not in a million years would I have thought I’d be playing with them. It’s been a nice journey.”

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