Video from a 2001 Hands On’Ensemble performance featuring Bergamo.
Master percussionist and CalArts’ Percussion Program founder John Bergamo was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society (PAS) Hall of Fame earlier this month at PASIC, the society’s annual convention and the largest percussion event in the world. The honor this year was also bestowed upon legendary musicians as Hal Blaine, Gordon Stout and Dave Garibaldi.
Bergamo, who taught at CalArts for 35 years, has enjoyed an eclectic career since the 1960s, publishing more than 25 percussion compositions, performing on the soundtrack of at least 18 Hollywood films and studying and working with music pioneers, ranging from John Cage to Ringo Starr to Max Roach.
As the PAS website explains, much of Bergamo’s career was influenced by CalArts:
[For Bergamo,] [t]he atmosphere was special at CalArts, where collaboration and experimentation crossed boundaries and sparked creativity. Faculty and students interacted freely, and John found himself learning as much as any student. He studied South Indian kanjira, ghatam, and solkattu with T. Ranganathan, ghatam with T.H. Subashchandran, African drumming with Alfred and Kobla Ladzekpo, tabla with Swapan Chaudhuri, and Javanese gamelan with K.R.T. Wasitodiningrat. More importantly, John helped foster a culture of mutual trust and respect among his students by learning along with them in real-world performances.
Bergamo also co-founded the Hands On’Ensemble, which now consists of CalArts faculty members Randy Gloss and Andrew Grueschow, as well as alumnus Austin Wrinkle (Music BFA 97, MFA 99).
Gloss, who recently wrote an article Hands On’Semble: Finding Your Voice in World Percussion in the September 2012 edition of the society’s Percussion Notes journal, praised Bergamo’s ability to work with young musicians:
One of the many things that John Bergamo was particularly gifted at was unlocking doors for young musicians and helping them to open up and find their own artistic voice. It was so ingrained in his approach as a teacher that, to this day, it is still an underlying byproduct of a CalArts education, and is at the core of what Hands On’Semble is all about.