Sabbatical is personally and professionally inspiring -dlh

Katharine Enoch

Percussion professor Dane Richeson will be taking sabbatical this winter term in order to further his study and interest in Brazilian and non-western music and to compile recordings in preparation for a CD release. His four-week trip to Brazil will be his third trip to that country, not mentioning his travels to Ghana and Cuba in pursuit of similar studies. For Richeson, this trip will focus on the continuance of study of Brazilian music and percussion techniques. His travels will take him to the Southern region of Brazil, specifically Rio and Sao Paulo, where he plans to study with percussionist Luiz Guello.
Richeson’s interest in non-western music was piqued at an elementary school age, when he would hear recordings on the radio. “The music really moved me,” said Richeson. In college, he identified the importance and influence of non-western music, particularly in the percussion genre, and decided to study such music. From this, he determined his “trilogy of study” *******– Ghana, Brazil, and Cuba. “Music from the three areas greatly influenced the music of our country,” said Richeson, noting particularly jazz and contemporary chamber music.
Richeson emphasized the importance of not only understanding the techniques of non-western music, but experiencing traditional music and embracing it. “I take portions of traditional music and work them in with the traditional classical and jazz techniques that I am responsible for teaching,” said Richeson. Experience abroad has lead Richeson to create percussion ensembles based on regional music styles. The Sambistas percussion ensemble performs Brazilian music, Kinkaviwo is the African drumming ensemble, and the percussion studio also collaborates to play music of Cuban origin.
Challenges in his work abroad have included everything from language barriers and living conditions to the feat of absorbing percussion traditions and techniques through an oral teaching method. Although Richeson points out that after the initial frustration, “music does transcend the language barrier.”
“I don’t pretend to know it all,” admitted Richeson, who said of his efforts, “I learn as much of traditional music as I possibly can.” Richeson also referenced the pressure of, “being in the presence of a master drummer.” He said that, “Any time you throw yourself into a culture … for an extended period of time, it presents you with a lot of challenges, good and bad. It teaches you a lot about your musical life and your personal, intellectual life.”
Richeson recognizes the importance of world musical and cultural exposure to the state of the individual and speaks fondly of his experiences. “I love it ’cause you make great friends … people who look out for you.” He notes the effect that such experiences have had on him. “It invigorates hope. We can get kind of dark and ugly here.”
Richeson will spend the rest of the term editing recordings that he has archived and compiling the mix of solo and chamber music in preparation for a CD release. He describes his music as being influenced by world music and infused with jazz sensibilities. He is in the process of applying for a “faculty development grant” in order to partially-fund his sabbatical. But he said that “I can’t expect any funding,” and recalls, on his previous travels, having to pay most of the expenses out of pocket. Jamie Ryan, a Lawrence alumnus of 1998, will be covering Richeson’s studio during the winter term.