Rob Funkhouser is a composer and performer who can never quite sit still. He serves as the Operations and Education Manager for Rhythm! Discovery Center and has been with PAS for four years. Outside of work and music, he is known for speaking loudly and thinking he is funnier than he actually is.
Rhythm! Scene: How did you get started in percussion?
Rob Funkhouser: I used to have a small career up through seventh grade as a desk drummer, much to the chagrin of my peers and teachers. In eighth grade, I was finally able to start taking drum lessons and I was hooked pretty much immediately.
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
RF: Working at Rhythm! Discovery Center, I get to see a lot of unique instruments. Right now, my favorite is probably Clair Musser’s Celestaphone, which is a vibraphone made of meteorites. We’re working to get it back in playable condition now, and I can’t wait to hear it in action, even if only in a limited capacity.
R!S: Who was your percussion idol growing up?
RF: Glenn Kotche of Wilco floored me when his record Mobile came out. He was the drummer who made me think out of the box as to what it meant to be a musician and artist and to start composing.
R!S: What was one of your most memorable performances as a student percussionist?
RF: This wasn’t through school, but when I was in college, I happened to get recruited for a band to play a show at the Stone in New York, which had been a dream of mine since John Zorn had opened the space a few years prior. That was the first time I got to play in a place that had been occupied by a long line of my musical heroes before me, and the memory of that trip will forever be a pleasant one.
R!S: Who were key or memorable teachers in your musical education?
RF: I think the teacher who taught me the most about what I want out of a lifetime of music is Peter Farmer out of Boston. He had a funny way of eviscerating whatever I was working on while joking around, which made me unafraid to fail repeatedly in the compositional process.
R!S: What sort of music activities are part of your job?
RF: Teaching and performing are both central to my role, especially when it comes to our community programming. In the coming year, I am going to incorporate some composition into my job through new programming in the museum.
R!S: What was your introduction to PAS?
RF: I don’t remember a moment exactly, but I was a member for most of high school. I honestly may have found it via a web search, as I don’t recall any of my teachers being vocal proponents of it at the time.
R!S: What is one thing you wish all student percussionists knew about PAS?
RF: I wish more people knew or took advantage of the fact that their PASIC badges will also get them into the Rhythm! Discovery Center for free on any year that the convention is in Indy. It’s a good way to get out of the convention center for a bit and see some pieces of percussion history that can’t be seen anywhere else.
R!S: What’s the first section you read in a new issue of Percussive Notes or Rhythm! Scene?
RF: It varies. I usually look for authors or subjects I like, which vary in terms of fields from month to month. Anything that has to do with performance practice of classical music written in the last hundred years or so is always an interesting read though, simply because you can get a pretty thorough history in a relatively brief article.
R!S: What is your most prized percussion-related souvenir?
RF: I’m not really a souvenir guy, but I do have this dried bean pod my friend plucked for me this summer that makes an almost wispy shaker sound. It is deep violet in color and is extremely fragile, so I only play it in my house.
R!S: If you aren’t playing, teaching percussion, working, or volunteering for PAS, what are you doing?
RF: I work as a composer a good bit, but generally, you can find me out on a walk.
R!S: What music or station is playing when you turn on your car?
RF: I really like this local station here in Indy, 99.1 WQRT LP. It’s a low-power station run by an arts nonprofit that is wildly unpredictable sometimes. I enjoy being surprised by tunes I’m not expecting, or the occasional poetry reading.
R!S: What’s the first app you open on your phone or first program you start on your computer each morning?
RF: Usually, I start the day by turning off my alarm, which is by far my least favorite app. Once the day is in swing though, I will either listen to podcasts or music on my walk to work. Having things like Spotify and Apple Music is something that I still marvel at in terms of access. Looking at the last 24 hours of listening, it ranges from Frescobaldi to Jeff Rosenstock. That would have taken a lot of effort—and CDs—when I was younger.
R!S: If you could tell your 18-year-old self one piece of musical advice, what would it be?
RF: Moments of musical and personal growth are rarely, if ever, preceded by a period of perfect comfort. Get familiar with a healthy level of discomfort, and seek it out in new experiences.