World Percussion Committee Panel
Rubén P. Alvarez
Rubén P. Alvarez is a Latin percussionist, drum set artist, composer, and educator. His recording and performance credits include musical theatre-The Lion King, blues-John Mayall, rock-Dennis De Young, jazz-Ramsey Lewis, r&b-Aretha Franklin, and performances on the 2012 Latin Grammy-nominated Chuchito Valdés CD, “Made in Chicago”, and leads the Raices Latin Jazz ensemble. Rubén directs “Puentes” the Latin jazz ensemble of Roosevelt University teaches Afro-Cuban percussion for the Chicago High School for the Arts, and serves as a residency artist for the Jazz Institute of Chicago Jazz Links Master Artists Residency Program. He is a founding member and has served as a member of the Board of Directors of The Jazz Education Network, the Board of Governors of the Chicago Chapter of the Recording Academy, and as Vice President of the Illinois chapter of the Percussive Arts Society. He currently serves on the World Percussion Committee of the Percussive Arts Society.
Dr. Andrés Espinoza Agurto
Dr. Andrés Espinoza Agurto has been playing percussion since he was 8 years old. He studied Afro-Cuban percussion at the Escuela Nacional de Arte in La Habana, Cuba, graduated summa cum laude from Berklee College of Music, with a degree in Jazz Composition, and holds an MA in Jazz studies and Ethnomusicology from the University of York (England). He received his PhD in Ethnomusicology from Boston University in 2014. His upcoming book: Una Sola Casa: Salsa Consciente and the Poetics of the Meta-barrio analyzes the impact of Salsa music as a forging element of sociopolitical identity within Latino and Latin American communities. Other research interests include the application of ethnomusicology to jazz performance and composition, Afro-Latino music, modern art music, and Spanish language rap. He is also the composer, musical director, and percussionist for his own group “Ayé”. He is currently Assistant Professor of music at Florida Atlantic University.
Chinelo 'Chi' Amen-Ra
Chinelo ‘Chi’ Amen-Ra is a Detroit-born percussionist grounded in Pan-Africanism and an interest in his Black American heritage. The percussive music of the African diaspora has given Chi great respect for the oneness of humanity. He has been blessed to receive the rhythms of Master Drummers from West, Central, and East Africa, Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and India. A University of Michigan alumnus holding a B.A. in African American Studies, he has augmented his percussive pursuits by exploring Africa’s contributions to American music. He has collaborated with the American Cancer Society and performed with the eminent Stevie Wonder at Super Bowl XL. Chi is a Kresge Artist Fellow, as well as a featured musician and performer in the Emmy Award-winning “DETROIT: One Nation Under A Groove” music video. Through the healing power of music, he aims to remedy some of that which divides the human family. www.chiamenra.com
Taku Hirano is a first-call percussionist on the touring circuit, with training in Afro- Cuban, Brazilian, West African, Middle Eastern, Indian and Japanese styles and instruments. As the first Hand Percussion Principal graduate of Berklee College of Music, Taku spent four years under the tutelage of master conguero Giovanni Hidalgo. Taku has toured with Fleetwood Mac, Whitney Houston, John Mayer, Bette Midler, Stevie Nicks, Lionel Richie, and Isaac Hayes. Other performances include Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Shakira, Ed Sheeran, Smokey Robinson, Willie Nelson, Ariana Grande, Herbie Hancock and twice at the White House for President Barack Obama. Recording credits include Dr. Dre, Fleetwood Mac, Whitney Houston, The Temptations, Stevie Nicks and Ziggy Marley. Taku is the only percussionist on Modern Drummer Magazine’s Pro Panel and an artist-in-residence at Berklee College of Music. Most recently, Taku was the percussionist for Fleetwood Mac’s 2018-2019 world tour.
Valerie Naranjo has been the percussionist in The SNL Band for 26 years, and has performed with such artists as Airto, David Byrne, Zakir Hussein, Philip Glass, and Paul Winter. In 1988 the ban on women gyil players was lifted, so that Valerie could participate in the Ghanaian Kobine Festival, for which she won a first prize in 1996. The film “Knock on Wood-The Film“ documents this activity. Valerie was Drum! Magazine’s “World Music Percussionist of the Year” 2005 & 2008, and “Mallet Player of the Year” 2012. Performances include Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall; The Kennedy Center, The White House; London’s Royal Festival Hall; FESTIBO (Ivory Coast); Young Indians (Delhi); Arts Alive (South Africa); and the 2010 Winter Olympics. Valerie teaches West African percussion, dance, and song at NYU, and is a member of NYU’s Global Institute of Advanced Studies. She published, with Kakraba Lobi “West African Music for the Marimba Soloist”, and “Joro” for gyil and orchestra/wind ensemble.
World percussionist Eric Paton accompanied April Berry’s Afro-Caribbean/Ailey classes, performed with Aretha Franklin, Tito Puente Jr., Sir Roland Hannah, Teatro alla Scala and Eitetsu Hayashi. Paton presented for PASIC, MENC, Remo Inc, International Kodaly Conference, IAJE, Arts Midwest, Universities, and hosted the Eitetsu Hayashi Fu-un No Kai – Ohio Taiko Project at Capital University. Ohio Teaching Artist Roster: Paton shared Taiko with 30,000 students. Paton studied with Matsui sensei, Kuroda sensei, Inomata Takeshi R.C.C., Bob Breithaupt, Leonard Moses, Phil Shipley, John Amira, Stuart Paton, E. Kaikpai Paasewe, Raymon Sylla, Fermin Nani, Michael Spiro, Adetobi Onile Funso, Alejandro Cavajal Guerra, Joseph Van Hassel and Roger Braun. He studied in Cuba, Jamaica and Japan, founded Hiuchi Taiko, and directs Yumbambé Salsa. Paton holds degrees from Ohio University, and Capital University, where he teaches World Music Lab with Remo Inc. World Percussion and Asano Taiko.
Mark Stone is a musician-educator from Michigan with a passion for using music to bring diverse communities together. As an Associate Professor of Music at Oakland University, Prof. Stone coordinates the world music, jazz, and percussion programs in the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. He is also the Arts Area Leader for the OU/Pontiac Initiative and a member of the Pontiac Arts Commission. Prof. Stone is recognized internationally for his work in global percussion performance and education. He has performed with the foremost musicians of Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, India, Trinidad, Ecuador, and the United States. An accomplished composer and improviser, Mark writes regularly for his many projects. His highly original musical style results from innovative performance practice rooted in a deep knowledge of multiple world traditions. As an American Baha’i, he is dedicated to promoting equity, justice, and a world embracing vision of humanity.
About the Session
Skin on Skin, a round table discussion
Hand drumming traditions, where the skin of the hand meets the skin of the drum, of the African Diaspora in Latin America, are the core foundation of a vast array of music of the Americas and the world. An affinity for these traditions serves to unite musicians of diverse ethnic backgrounds across the United States, and worldwide.
Moderators Ruben Alvarez and Mark Stone will lead a roundtable that explores the impact of these traditions and how they help transform the drum into an instrument of peace, overcome cultural differences, and fuel the noble aspiration of communal unity. Panelists Chinelo Amen-Ra, Andres Espinoza, Taku Hirano, Valerie Naranjo, and Eric Paton will each share their personal journey in African-based hand drum traditions and discuss the foundations and impact of these traditions on contemporary music and musicians in America.