RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • In Memoriam: Rubén P. Alvarez

    by Hillary Henry | Sep 29, 2022

    Ruben AlvarezRuben P Alvarez, a Latin percussionist, drum set artist, composer, and educator, died on Sept. 25, 2022 from complications from an incurable respiratory condition. 

    Born on Nov. 20, 1951 Rubén was first introduced to Latin percussion by playing drums in Puerto Rican street "descargas" in the 1960s on the streets of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He went on to amass significant credits as a musician and educator, including playing on movie soundtracks, radio and television jingles, and performances and recordings with Junior Wells, John Mayall, Dennis DeYoung, Dave Valentine, Arturo Sandoval, Eddie Palmieri, Anita Baker, The Commodores, Sones de Mexico Ensemble, Guitarra Azul, Chuchito Valdes, Ramsey Lewis, Patricia Barber, Grazyna Auguscik George Freeman, Slide Hampton, Laurel Massé, Chicago Sinfonietta, and the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra. He regularly performed with Chicago’s premier Latin jazz ensemble Chevere, Orbert Davis and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Jon Faddis and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, and he was leader and musical director of El Trio Tropical, the @Raices Profundas Latin Music Ensemble, and his own company, Astro Latino Productions. He was a 2013 Latin Grammy nominee for his work on the Chuchito Valdés CD Made in Chicago. In musical theatre he was a percussionist and musical consultant for the Goodman Theatre Production of Crowns and the Broadway Chicago run of The Lion King.

    As an educator, he was on the faculty at Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University, Prairie State College, Roosevelt University, Urban Gateways, the Center for Arts in Education, the Ravinia Festival's “Jazz Mentors” program, Bands of America, the International Association of Jazz Educators artist outreach, Teacher Training Institute programs, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Armonía Community outreach program, and the Jazz Institute of Chicago Jazz Links residency program. He led clinics, master classes, and performances at schools and music education conferences nationally and internationally. His educational articles were featured in DownBeat magazine, and he co-authored Rox Media’s Sheddin’ the Basics, Latin Jazz/Part One. He also served as a board member for the Jazz Education Network, a governor for the Recording Academy/Grammys Chicago Chapter, and vice-president for the Illinois Percussive Arts Society Chapter. He also served on the PAS World Percussion Committee.

  • In Memoriam: William “Bill” Platt

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Sep 09, 2022

    Bill PlattWilliam “Bill” Platt, a longtime member of the Cincinnati Symphony and teacher at Ohio University and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, died at age 77 on Sept. 5, 2022, after a battle with lung disease.

    William H. Platt was born on November 10, 1944 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was a graduate of Milford High School. At age 4, he became enamored with the sound of marching band drums. This led to a lifelong dedication to the mastery of an endless array of percussive instruments. Bill studied percussion at the Eastman School of Music, graduating in 1966. After being drafted that same year, he won a position in the United States Army Band. For three years, Bill performed with his Army bandmates at many White House and Washington events. He became part of a lifelong brotherhood of fellow musicians in that brief but formative period.

    Following his honorable discharge in 1969, Bill returned to Cincinnati to continue his music studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. While there, he met Kazuko Tsuneda, a fellow CCM student, and they married in 1971. Also in 1971, Bill began his distinguished career as principal percussionist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. His tenure spanned nearly 40 years, and in addition to regular performances at Music Hall, the CSO and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra took him to some of the greatest halls in the world — from Suntory Hall in Japan to Carnegie Hall in New York. He appeared on over 100 recordings, including multiple snare drum showcases, such as his performance of “Bolero.” He was the featured soloist for the orchestra's world premiere performances of Frank Proto's “Concertino for Percussion and Strings,” and was also featured on the premiere recording of the work for Red Mark Records. He was also a featured soloist for Proto's “The New Seasons — Sinfonia Concertante for Tuba, Percussion, Flutes and Strings” and “Three Pieces for Percussion and Orchestra,” and was the solo drummer in the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra's recording of Proto's “A Portrait of George.”

    Platt also performed and recorded extensively with double-bass virtuoso François Rabbath, including the world premiere recordings of Proto's “Concerto No. 2 for Double Bass and Orchestra” (solo drummer), “Carmen Fantasy for Double Bass and Orchestra” (solo percussion), and “Fantasy for Double Bass and Orchestra” (solo doumbec).

    Platt was a faculty member at Ohio University and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. He taught masterclasses and was an interim instructor at the University of Southern California. He served on the PAS Board of Advisors from 2014–20 and the PAS Symphonic Committee from 2011–17, and was a performing member of the PAS Symphonic Emeritus Percussion Section at PASIC 2015.

    After retiring in 2010, Bill continued to teach percussion, maintain his impressive collection of instruments, play golf, and spend time with his four grandchildren. 

    Remembering Bill Platt
    By Peter Erskine
    Some years ago, Bill Platt was speaking with his sister-in-law, Sachiko, when she mentioned, “I’ve been meaning to tell you, my good friend Mutsuko is married to a drummer.” “What’s his name?” Bill asked. Sachiko answered, “I think it’s Peter or something.” Bill began putting more questions to Sachiko, like “Where does this Peter live?” and so on when, all of a sudden, Bill put 2 + 2 together and asked, “Is his last name ERSKINE?” She nonchalantly answered, “Yes, I think that’s his name.” Thus began a journey that eventually brought Bill and his wife Kazuko to a beachside cafe in Santa Monica where we met (along with my wife, Mutsy), and Bill and I both felt as though we’d met the brother we didn’t know we had (while our wives chatted away in Japanese).

    What do drummers talk about when they share a brunch? DRUMS, of course, and teachers and schools and common friends and conductors and section-mates and the Percussive Arts Society — and probably some good old marimba gossip just for fun, too. Turned out Bill was a Rogers man at the time, as in “collector.” I told him about my mid-1960s Dyna-Sonic that had been found hanging on a large rusted nail in my father’s garage after he passed. That was my prize snare from when I was a freshman in high school. The shell was now pitted, it was missing many of its parts, and it was such a mess that birds had even nested in it (or, was such a mess because birds had nested in it). I had given up all hope for that drum but had not thrown it away. Bill suggested that I send it to him.

    A few weeks later, there was a message on my telephone’s answering machine. “Hey, Pete. This is Bill. Did a little work on your drum; I think you might be pleasantly surprised. Let me know what you think. Take care! Bye!” The next day a box arrived from Cincinnati. When I opened it, I saw what appeared to be a brand-new Dyna-Sonic. “Huh?! This is amazing, but why would he send me a new…” and then I remembered one small but deep scratch that no amount of cleaning or buffing could hide. Could it be? Yes it could! This was MY drum. It was not elbow grease that brought this drum back to life. It was not Super Fine Grade #0000 steel wool. It was love.

    Bill and I became inseparable at numerous PASICs, vintage drum shows, or at the University of Southern California, where he would teach on occasion. I visited some of Bill’s gigs with the symphony; he attended some of my recording sessions. We shared a lot of meals, a LOT of drum talk, and a lot of brotherly love. He also shared an infinite amount of drum knowledge and lore with me and my students — masterclasses for the kids, gentle yet authoritative direct advice for my hands. And his teaching style was just like the man himself: he always brought out the best in the other.

    My favorite anecdote about Bill is the story he told about himself and a young guest conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, when the conductor began telling Bill how he should play something. Bill’s remark back to the maestro was, “Listen, Sonny, I’ve got underwear that’s older than you.” Not sure how the rest of the story goes, but that punchline is pretty good.

    Bill had just finished working on a new signature symphonic snare drum with the design team at Tama before illness slowed him down. That drum, along with the hundreds of recordings he made over the years and the countless number of friends and students whose lives he touched, will serve as a fitting memorial for a life that was well-lived: a life dedicated to his family, to his music, and to his drums. RIP, brother.

    Remembering Bill Platt
    By Garwood Whaley
    Bill joined the percussion section of the U.S. Army Band, “Pershing’s Own” in Washington D.C in the late ’60s, when I was already a member. We became instant friends and musical colleagues, spending three years together performing countless ceremonies, concerts and, with vivid memories, marching in President Nixon’s inaugural parade where we were pelted with firecrackers as a protest to the war in Vietnam. 

    We remained friends for over fifty years. Dick Ecton (Juilliard), Glenn Luedtke (Peabody Conservatory), Bill (Eastman), and I (Juilliard) started an annual percussion-section reunion in memory of Vince Battisti, our beloved section leader; we called ourselves “Vince’s Boys.” The reunion turned into a monthly Zoom call where many former members joined the group. We were fortunate to be able to connect with Bill on a monthly basis and relive some of our cherished memories together.  

    I will miss Bill’s political commentaries, sense of humor and friendship greatly. Rest in Peace, my friend.

  • In Memoriam: Rob Parks

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jun 21, 2022

    Dr. Rob Parks died of cancer on June 12, 2022.

    Dr. Parks was the Director of Percussion Studies at Lebanon Trail High School in Frisco, Texas. He also taught the percussion students in the Lebanon Trail Cluster at Fowler Middle School and Clark Middle School, and served as the conductor and director of the Fowler Percussion Ensemble, who performed at PASIC 2015. In addition, Dr. Parks assisted the percussion section of the Liberty High School Full Orchestra in preparation for their performance at the 2015 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.

    Prior to his appointment at Lebanon Trail, Dr. Parks served as Director of Percussion at Liberty High School in Frisco and Newman Smith High School in Carrollton, Texas. During his time at Smith, the Newman Smith Trojan Marching Band qualified for the Texas State Marching Band Contest in 2009 and 2011. Dr. Parks’ students successfully auditioned for placement in the TMEA All State Bands and TMEA Region 24 All-Region Bands and Jazz Bands, and performed with the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra. His students also performed with such drum corps as The Cavaliers, Blue Knights, Crossmen, Madison Scouts, and Southwind.

    Dr. Parks served on the percussion faculty at the Bands of America/Music For All Summer Symposium and Yamaha Sounds of Summer Camps, and he taught and arranged for high schools throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Japan. He was a founding member of the UK Percussion Quartet, which performed throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana, including a performance at the first annual Bands of America National Percussion Ensemble Festival. During the summer of 1999, he was a member of the Bluecoats Drum & Bugle Corps, and he served as a percussion consultant for Southwind Drum & Bugle Corps.

    Dr. Parks was a contributing composer for a multiple-percussion book entitled Multitudes, published by Innovative Percussion, as well as contributing composer and assistant editor for a collection of rudimental solos titled The Blue Book, published by Tapspace Publications.

    Dr. Parks received his bachelor's degree in Music Education from Austin Peay State University, where he studied percussion with David Steinquest. He earned a master's degree in Percussion Performance and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree, both from the University of Kentucky, under the direction of Professor James Campbell.

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