Over the last five years, I have increasingly carried out research projects in Colombia that have taken the shape of concert series, premiering new works by Latin American composers, and ethnographic research with master folkloric musicians in Afro-Colombian genres. Much of this research was made possible by receiving funding through the Fulbright Grant (2011-2012) and the Graduate Presser Award (2014).
I find it extremely exciting that many influential figures are shared between the disciplines of modern dance and percussion. As a percussionist, I have long admired Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison, and John Cage, all of whom are as equally important to the history of percussion as they are to the history of music for modern dance. Performing their music and the music of many contemporary composers, deeply informs my aesthetic when it comes to composition and sound design for modern dance. As such, I find it important to commission and premiere percussion music as a research method because it keeps my creative work fresh and relevant to developments in my own performing field. Further, my research in codifying the relationship between movement and drumming in Latin American folkloric music manifests itself when accompanying classes in the dance studio.
Alegre! The Language of Drumming in Colombia’s Caribbean Coast: This is an ongoing project involving ethnographic research with master Colombian folkloric percussionists. The goal of the research is to codify the language of drumming within multiple genres of Afro-Colombian percussion into a methodology for learning to play in the style of this rich musical tradition. This will be a significant contribution to the percussive arts community as an underrepresented Caribbean musical genre in the United States.
Cantigas e Ritmos a dos Orixas: Over this past year, as part of my doctoral coursework, I researched and transcribed the lead drumming of Jorge Alabe, a master of ceremonies in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé religion. I am in the process of turning the transcriptions and interviews with Jorge Alabe into a method book that will be published by Sambamasterclass.com in the coming year (2018). The book focuses on the interrelation of lead drumming with song and dance, codifying the stylized improvisation of the lead drummer into an instructional method for percussionists interested in the genre.
The Contemporary Percussion Sound Exchange Project was a project to promote cross-cultural exchange through the commissioning and premiering of fifteen new works by American and Colombian composers during my year of research as a Fulbright scholar in Bogotá, Colombia. I premiered these new works in a five-concert recital series at major concert halls in Bogotá.
Perspectives from Latin America is a current project in which I curate a recital series that features percussion works by Latin American composers. The concept of the series is to develop a Pan-American musical dialogue instead of a Eurocentric one, and to share the great wealth of percussion repertoire of Latin America with the percussion community in the United States.