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Michael Waldrop: Bio

- Michael Waldrop: Short Bio

Michael Waldrop is a percussionist skilled in both the jazz and classical idioms. He excels in all aspects of percussion performance while specializing in drumset and mallet instruments.
He is currently the Professor of Percussion at Eastern Washington University. He teaches jazz drumset, classical percussion, percussion ensembles and percussion methods at EWU. He has a Bachelors degree in percussion performance from the University of North Texas, a Masters in Jazz Studies from the University of Memphis and a Doctorate in Performance from the University of North Texas.

Dr. Waldrop's career has been extensive and varied, ranging from rock and jazz styles to performances as a classical percussionist in symphonic, chamber music and solo recital settings. He was a member of the Grammy nominated One O'Clock Lab Band and recorded two CD's with the group and has been on several tours, including a European tour of the Broadway production "42nd Street," and a tour of Turkey with Prix di Rome prize-winning composer, Kamran Ince, and his ensemble. In addition, he has performed with Maureen McGovern, Della Reese, Randy Brecker, Marvin Stamm, the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Eliane Elias and Slide Hampton. Dr. Waldrop was also a member of Blue Note Recording artist, Bob Belden's quartet. He has played and recorded with many of the greatest percussionists in the world including Gordon Stout, Neboisa Zivkovic and Airto. He has played on many recording projects ranging from the Warner Bros. movie, "Christmas Vacation," national commercial jingles and two CD's of original jazz (see audio links below.)

Dr. Waldrop was the Director of Jazz Studies and Percussion at Mesa State College in Colorado from 1999-2004. While in Colorado, he was Principal Percussionist with the Grand Junction Symphony as well as Director of the Western Colorado Jazz Orchestra. For the past two years he was Professor of Percussion at the University of Toledo. While there he performed in the Faculty Jazz group with legendary jazz vocalist, Jon Hendricks. He is currently a member of Jack Cooper's Jazz Orchestra of the Delta based in Memphis and was formerly a member of the Spokane-based Bob Curnow Big Band.

Dr. Waldrop's former teachers include: Robert Schietroma, Ron Fink, Henry Okstel, Greg Bissonnette, Ed Soph, Gordon Stout, Frank Shaffer, Keith Copeland and masterclasses with Leigh Stevens. He endorses Yamaha percussion instruments and Vic Firth sticks and mallets and is a clinician for both companies.

He is available for clinics and performances in both the jazz and classical percussion idioms and is an artist endorser for Vic Firth sticks and mallets as well as Yamaha percussion.

Michael Waldrop: Long Bio

MICHAEL WALDROP: MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY

Michael Waldrop is arguably one of the most diverse percussionists in the world. He is comfortable in a jazz or commercial music setting as a drumset player and he is equally at home in a classical orchestral setting. He is a virtuoso marimbist, whether performing his own music, or that of other composers. Michael is also adept at hand drumming, having studied with some of the greatest hand percussionists in the world. He is proficient on the tar as well as conga drums. In addition to these impressive performance skills, Waldrop is a skilled composer in both the jazz and percussion idioms. His compositions are published by Drop6 Media. He was educated at the University of North Texas receiving both his BM in Percussion Performance and completing his DMA in Percussion Performance in 1999. He was the drummer for the renowned One O’Clock band in 1994 and can be heard on three CD’s with the group: Lab 94, Standard Time and Fifty Years. He is currently the professor of percussion at Eastern Washington Unversity and has held similar positions prior to this at the University of Toledo, University of Memphis and Mesa State College in Colorado.

Waldrop’s musical beginnings were typical, he grew up listening to the radio and popular music and showed an aptitude for drumming along with the music, so his parents bought him a small drumset and he started studying in school and later privately. His musical education progressed rapidly when he moved from the Atlanta area to Ithaca, NY in the 70’s. He had the good fortune to study and perform with some terrific musicians and percussionists in that area including Ithaca College percussion professors Bill Youhass and Gordon Stout. Waldrop also had the good fortune to perform with renowned guitarist David Torn (composed and performed music for the movie Traffic) at the young age of 18. He was playing professionally in upstate NY by the age of 17. After high school it was off to the University of North Texas.

The UNT experience was invaluable in terms of gaining essential skills as a performer and also being exposed to a wide variety of music, ranging from 20th century contemporary classical music, avant garde jazz and especially big band performance. Waldrop performed with many fantastic artists at UNT; while there he was a member of the Dan Haerle Quartet, The Zebras (with pianist Michael Cain), Inner City recording artists Condor, the Bob Belden Quartet and the Jay Saunders Group. He studied with many great teachers while there including Robert Schietroma, Ron Fink, Ed Soph, Henry Okstel, Kal Cherry, Michael Carney, and Greg Bissonette.

After finishing his undergrad Waldrop returned to the NY area and performed extensively. He played in Caprice Fox’s (from New York Voices) group for almost a year and freelanced with many players and made an important connection with guitarist Jimi Tunnell who later rose to prominence as guitarist for the group Steps Ahead.

In 1987 he accepted a fellowship and began work on a Master’s degree in jazz performance at the University of Memphis. In the Memphis years Waldrop honed his jazz keyboard and composition skills studying with jazz piano guru Gene Rush. Gene was Harold Danko’s piano teacher and is one of the great jazz pedagogues around. The Memphis experience had a profound impact on Waldrop’s musical sensibilities. The strong blues aesthetic in the area was inescapable and the myriad implications of the blues were revealed though his experience there. The blues became much more than a musical structure and melodic mode. In Memphis the blues takes on almost mystical qualities. Many times this aesthetic idealization of the blues borders on the surreal (re: Elvis and Graceland, Robert Johnson and the Crossroads); nonetheless often enough these mystical qualities seem quite real in Memphis. The personal experience of the blues through time spent in Memphis cannot be underemphasized. The blues is the most ubiquitous aspect of “American” music; to learn it from the source was a profound experience.

Memphis performances included countless jazz gigs, Broadway shows, funk bands, blues bands etc. A few of the highlights from those years were backing jazz great Phineas Newborn, singer Della Reese, guitarist Frank Gambale, pianist Eliane Elias, Randy Brecker and trumpeter Marvin Stamm. In 1989 Waldrop recorded on the soundtrack to the movie “Christmas Vacation” at the invitation of the great keyboardist Lester Snell (worked with Isaac Hayes and on Shaft) Waldrop was invited to teach jazz percussion and jazz theory at the University of Memphis in 1997. He maintains a close association with musicians in Memphis and continues to perform and record with the Jazz Orchestra of the Delta led by the great jazz composer Jack Cooper. Cooper is currently director of jazz studies at the University of Memphis. The group performed a featured concert with the Memphis Symphony in 2005 as well as premiering a ballet version of Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite and other works with the Memphis Ballet in 2006.

In 1990, directly after finishing his Master’s degree in Memphis Waldrop relocated to Chicago and worked strictly as a performer in the Chicagoland area. He performed with many of the best jazz musicians in the area including saxophonist Mike Smith and legendary jazz violinist Johnny Frigo. While in Chicago Waldrop began playing in Broadway musicals and eventually accepted a position touring Europe with 42nd Street. He spent much of 1992 and 1993 performing in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Waldrop accepted a Doctoral fellowship to UNT in 1993 and was in residency there until 1996. He finished coursework for the DMA in 1996 and finished the dissertation (Alec Wilder’s Music for Marimba) and degree itself in 1999. Immediately thereafter he accepted his first full time position at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado. The duties at MSC included directing the jazz and percussion ensembles, teaching studio percussion and teaching music technology.

In 2004 Waldrop accepted a position as Professor of Percussion at the University of Toledo. While there he built a very successful studio and performed extensively with the faculty jazz group which included the legendary jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks as well as saxophonist Gunnar Mossblad (Dave Liebman’s musical director). He performed throughout the Midwest as a jazz drummer and solo percussionist.

In 2006 Waldrop accepted a position as Director of Percussion Studies at Eastern Washington Unversity in Cheney, WA. EWU is one of the strongest percussion programs in the NW USA and also boasts a very strong jazz program. Since his arrival to the Inland Northwest Waldrop has performed with a plethora of great jazz artists including Tim Ries, Rich Perry, Greg Gisbert and Wayne Horvitz. He performs with his own trio “Triangularity” as well as with a four piece salsa group dedicated to the music of Cal Tjader. A very significant performance medium for Waldrop was his association with the Bob Curnow big band from 2006-2009. The Curnow band performs and records Curnow’s original compositions and arrangements as well as the entire Sierra Music catalog. Curnow is Stan Kenton’s former musical director, past president of IAJE and a member of the IAJE Hall of Fame. He is renowned for his big band arrangements of Pat Metheny’s music.

Michael Waldrop continues to evolve as a percussionist and musician, continuing to seek out a more complete synergy of his disparate influences and experiences into a unified musical vision. Waldrop defines music as: serious organization of sound that seeks to communicate to the listener those messages that cannot be communicated through spoken or written language. Music is not limited by genre or instrumentation, it is not limited by culture. All music of serious intent and assiduous construction preceded and supported by study and self realization is of great value. It is this music that is the background that has contributed to his musical output. Every performance experience and listening experience of a musician’s life is revealed in his creative output; be that output in a composition, performance or recording. As is the case with any serious musician, the truest musical biography of Waldrop can be heard in his music and his performances.