for the Musicians' Portrait Project.
Born on June 22, 1947 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Bob Becker holds the degrees Bachelor of Music with Distinction and Master of Music (Performance and Literature) from the Eastman School of Music where he studied percussion with William G. Street and John H. Beck, and composition with Warren Benson and Aldo Provenzano. He later spent four years doing post-graduate study in the World Music program at Wesleyan University where he became intensely involved with the music cultures of North and South India, Africa and Indonesia.
Becker co-founded the percussion group NEXUS, which gave its first performances in 1971 and continues to perform around the world. With NEXUS, he has been involved with the collection and construction of a unique multi-cultural body of instruments as well as the development of an extensive and eclectic repertoire of chamber and concerto works for percussion. The ensemble has toured extensively throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, performing in chamber music venues as well as with symphony orchestras, and has recorded over twenty-five CDs. With NEXUS, Becker has appeared with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 1999 he and the other members of NEXUS were inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame.
Becker has been a regular member of the ensemble Steve Reich and Musicians since 1973. With this group he has appeared as soloist with the Israel Philharmonic, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra and has recorded extensively for Deutsche Grammophone, EMI and Nonesuch.
Becker has performed and lectured for music departments and percussion programs throughout North America and Europe. His clinics and workshops cover a wide variety of percussion topics including North Indian tabla drumming, West and East African percussion,"melodic" snare drumming, rudimental arithmetic, creative approaches to cymbal playing, and ragtime xylophone improvisation concepts. He has served as editor for the contemporary percussion issue of the British publication Contemporary Music Revue and served for two years on the board of directors of the Percussive Arts Society.
As a composer, his most recent works include There is a Time, commissioned by Rina Singha and the Danny Grossman Dance Company, Noodrem, commissioned through the Canada Council by the Dutch ensemble Slagwerkgroep Den Haag, Turning Point, composed for the NEXUS ensemble, Cryin' Time, a setting of poetry by the Canadian artist Sandra Meigs, Never in Word and Time in the Rock, settings of poetry by the American author Conrad Aiken, and Music On The Moon, commissioned through the Laidlaw Foundation by the Esprit Orchestra in Toronto. He has collaborated numerous times with dance companies, including the Joffrey Ballet in New York. In 1991 he and Joan Phillips were awarded the National Arts Centre Award for the best collaboration between composer and choreographer at Toronto's INDE '91 dance festival.
In April, 2005 he was featured during the 25th Anniversary of the Budapest Spring Festival as guest soloist with the Hungarian percussion ensemble Amadinda in a concert of his own compositions. In July, 2009 he was showcased at the first International Belgian Percussion Festival as soloist with the Swedish percussion group Kroumata in a concert featuring his own compositions and arrangements. He is currently at work on a commission involving string quartet, piano and 5 percussionists, to be premiered in August, 2011 at the Banff Centre for the Arts.
Five of his compositions are included on his solo album, There is a Time, released in 1995 on the Nexus Records label. He recently completed work on a book titled Rudimental Arithmetic, an in-depth study of the mathematical bases of the rudiments of snare drumming and their applications in composition and polyrhythmic theory. Becker's writing, compositions and arrangements are published by Keyboard Percussion Publications.
Bob BeckerMusicians' Portrait ProjectNexus