A performer for over 40 years, Rob plays jazz, blues, rock, classical, and Brazilian and other ethnic music — including klezmer and Chassidic rock. Currently he plays big band jazz with EnerJazz, original jazz with Chuck Miller’s Seven Project, rock with The Keating Five, blues with Left Eye Jump, free jazz with John Fischer’s Interface, and he frequently plays drums and percussion in musicals. Here’s his setup for the 2011 production of Miss Saigon at the Paramount Theater, Rutland, Vermont.
Rob is equally passionate about teaching, and his commitment to music education takes many forms. He gives drum and percussion lessons to people of all ages, works with groups in area schools, conducts residencies and facilitates community rhythm (drum) circles, writes books, articles and blogs, and has created a Vermont branch of Sally’s Music Circle for very young children.
Rob began playing in the 1960’s as a rock ‘n roll drummer, moving into jazz and blues in the 70’s. He attended Berklee College of Music and the Philadelphia Musical Academy, where he studied with Philadelphia Orchestra percussionist Michael Bookspan and earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Percussion. Other teachers during that period were jazz vibist Bill Lewis, and drummers Fred Kahn and Carl Mottola. Rob also attended workshops and clinics with numerous nationally known drummers and percussionists, including Saul Goodman and Mel Lewis.
In 1976 Rob co-founded the Atmos Percussion Quartet, which performed percussion-only repertoire throughout the Philadelphia region. Also during that time and into the ’80’s, Rob spent several years performing with the contemporary music group, Relache and as a classical timpanist and percussionist with the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia. Later Rob worked with several original rock bands, and eventually created an entertainment agency that managed, produced and promoted several groups, including his own band which performed for over a thousand parties and special events.
In the early ’90’s, Rob decided to stop playing commercial gigs and continue performing only in artistically challenging and enjoyable situations. At the same time, he changed his main career focus to music education. These decisions have resulted in a dynamic, satisfying and balanced set of activities that continue to the present.
Since the 1970’s, Rob has maintained a roster of private students, first at Philadelphia’s Settlement and Jenkintown Music Schools and later as the lead teacher and director of his own Music Learning Centers. Several of his students, including Ari Hoenig, Michael Shapiro and Ken Every, have become well known drummers and percussionists.
In the ’80’s Rob spent 3 summers studying the Orff and Kodaly concepts of early childhood music education. Following the birth of his first child in 1990, Rob became even more interested in pre-school music education. After meeting up with Dr. Sally Weaver, Rob co-founded and taught in Sally’s Music Circle, a program for children newborn to age 5. Subsequently, he studied at Temple University with Sally Weaver’s mentor, noted music learning theorist Dr. Edwin Gordon. While with Sally’s Music Circle, Rob co-produced a series of companion CDs consisting of over 120 songs, and ultimately became program development director. He also spent the next 12 years on the faculty of Bryn Mawr College teaching pre-school music at the Phebe Anna Thorne School.
Also resulting from his work with Dr. Gordon, Rob began to re-think his his entire approach to teaching percussion, and eventually developed a methodology and set of materials which became his book entitled Whole Music Drumming.
During the last fifteen years an increasing number of students and teachers have been attracted to Rob’s Whole Music Learning approach. This led to the creation of Music Learning Centers which, at its peak, involved over 100 students and 8 teachers at two locations in the Philadelphia area.
In 2003 Rob made a quality of life decision to move to Vermont. In 2009 he closed Music Learning Centers in Philadelphia in order to concentrate on being more fully involved in his new community.
Currently Rob continues his dual commitment to performing and music education. In addition to teaching, he writes books and articles based on his approach. His current work-in-progress is a CD with a companion book intended for grownups. Secrets of Music addresses the longings of the many adults who feel left behind by their experiences in music, and uses percussion and voice as an ideal point of entry into music participation.