Derek has always tried to share his knowledge and understanding with others. As with love, friendship, goodwill, and many other beautiful things, the more you share, the more you have. His extensive studies have not only given him a depth of material, technique, grooves and musical approaches from numerous traditions, he has also experienced and learned from a wide variety of teaching styles in difference contexts. Benefitting from the mistakes and successes of numerous teachers around the world has enabled Derek to teach for a vast range of levels and experiences in numerous settings, explain things from many different perspectives, help students see the connections between things, and always work towards enhancing their overall musicianship and presence, regardless of the specific technique employed in each moment.
Workshops, master classes, and private lessons are available in many options, including:
- North Indian classical music
- Other rhythms from Pernambuco (Coco, Ciranda)
- Carioca (Rio-style) Samba
- Samba Afro/Reggae
- Introduction to Candomblé rhythms
- Body music
- Non-Western (Sargam) notation (for rhythm, drum arrangements, melodies, dance, etc)
- Instrument technique and ergonomics (especially stringed and percussion instruments)
- Breema Bodywork and Self-Breema
North Indian Classical Music
Derek spent 10 years studying the classical music of the Maihar Gharana at the Ali Akbar College of Music 7 years under the legendary maestro Ali Akbar Khansahib, and after he passed, with his amazing son Sri Alam Khan. In this decade of intense study, Derek learned and practiced a huge range of excercies that can improve the musicianship and abilities of anyone on any instrument (including voice). He also began to scratch the surface of a handful of beautiful and powerful ragas, and to master numerous talas, or rhythm cycles.
Each raga is more than a mode or set of notes. You can have multiple ragas that use the same exact notes but sound totally different from each other. Ragas can be extremely deep and vast, with characteristic phrases, orniments, which notes you use while ascending vs. descending, certains notes or combinations of notes you would never play, and so on. Although it is impossible to share a decade of learning in a single workshop, and 10 years is only the very beginning of a true study of Indian classical music, Derek can introduce some of the fundamental concepts of raga and how they work in both improvisation and fixed compositions. He will also explain the typical format by which any given raga is rendered in North Indian classical music. Depending on interest, both instrumental and vocal music can be discussed and demonstrated.
Workshops are available introducing and exploring tala, the North Indian approach to rhythm cycles in music. Classes will both technically explain and break down the cycles mathematically, but also incorporate numerous vocal games and exercises to play with and recite the different cycles, expand your understanding of rhythm, subdivision, macro cycles, polyrhythms, and more.
Since 1998 Derek has been studying and teaching maracatú, both baque virado (from the more traditional maracatu nação groups) and bate livre (a contemporary and advanced approach developed by Nininho in Olinda that builds on traditional maracatu and combines it with other rhythms, styles, and musical arrangements). In 2005 on his first trip to Olinda, Derek connected with Nininho and Maracatu Badia, and quickly became one of the main teachers and proponents of Nininho's material and approach.
Derek organized 2 cultural exchange tours (2012 and 2013) to teach numerous workshops and lecture demonstrations in 13 cities over 2 months, including on the faculty at California Brazil Camp. Derek acted as the teaching assistant (trading instruments with Nininho so each could demonstrate all the different parts) and translator, in addition to being tour manager.
Derek has many years of experience teaching all levels, from complete beginners to the most advanced professionals. Maracatu workshops will incorporate various elements depending on the length of stay in your location, the regularity of the workshop attendees, their prior experience (if any), etc. The following sections describe how and what Derek aims to teach. He can work with you to craft the specific material to be covered in the events in your location based on your local needs, resources, and interests.
Generally, you will be responsible for providing instruments, and the classes will be more valuable if you have actual alfaia bass drums to use. For the caixa (snare) maracatu generally uses U.S.-style snare drums, not Rio-style malacacheta or caixa de guerra. Maracatu also uses the gonguê (bell -- cow bells and agogô also work), and agbê (shekere). Timbal and/or djembe can also be used if desired and available.
Derek generally starts workshops with some vocalizing, movement and body-music to share the basic rhythms and concepts of maracatú, or to teach specific parts for new arrangements. If the workshop will include any songs, he introduces the lyrics and melody during this time. He'll speak various alfaia rhythms using "de" ("direita"/right/dominant) and "eh" ("esquerda"/left/non-dominant) to learn both the subdivision/rests and proper sticking at the same time. This resembles using "do" and "re" from the solfege system in Western classical music training (or sargam in Indian music).
Instrument Technique & Ergonomics
Derek believes it is always essential to demonstrate and support proper technique on all instruments, emphasizing how to play without hurting yourself or the instrument, how to get the most and best sound with the least effort, how to use your whole body to play, and some basic dance movements. He places special emphasis on alfaia technique, including the (perhaps unfamiliar) use of the non-dominant arm characteristic in maracatú. He'll also introduce some of the central and recurring aspects of maracatú, such as common gonguê parts, the role of the agbê, and some typical components found in many alfaia rhythms.
Baque Livre #1-#10
The 10 foundational grooves used in Maracatú Badia, each with separate marcante (bass), meião (middle) and virador (high) alfaia variations, their own (sometimes multiple) caixa parts, a total of 6 different gonguê rhythms, etc. In addition to teaching each rhythm, Derek will show some basic arrangements to tie them together.
Depending on available time, skill, and what you already know, there are a lot of compositions for maracatú instrumentation Derek can teach. Most of these are from Nininho, used by Maracatú Badia, but there are a few of Derek's creations he can share.
Mostly these involve original compositions by Nininho, with lyrics in Portuguese (and sometimes Yoruba), performed by Maracatú Badia: Bate Livre Badia, Badia Elegante, Badia Carnavalesco, Reluzente Badia, Matamba, Maculelê, Renascente Badia. Additional songs from other groups such as Maracatu Nacao Estrela Brilhante can also be taught.
Other Rhythms from Pernambuco
Pernambuco is one of the smallest states in Brazil, but perhaps one of the most culturally rich places anywhere on Earth. There are numerous styles and genres of music, dance, street theater, and other art forms that were only found there (although many have now spread around Brazil and the world), in addition to being greatly skilled at styles more popularly known from other parts of Brazil (such as samba, samba afro/reggae, afoxé, etc). Derek considers Olinda, PE one of his main homes away from home, having lived there for months at a time over 5 different trips to Brazil. While he will still be learning about Pernambuco for the rest of his life, Derek has studied a handful of styles beyond maracatú that he is comfortable teaching and sharing.
Coco is a genre of music from Pernambuco, Brazil. It is similar to maractú, and shares its roots in the terreiros or temples, but is generally even less well-known outside of Pernambuco. The typical instrumentation includes a single alfaia or zabumba, ganza/shaker, caixa/snare, elu (hand drums used in the sacred Nagô traditions) or if not available, conga, timbal, etc, and call and response vocals. However, there are arrangements of this rhythm for the larger maracatu drum ensembles (much like these groups also do afoxe arrangements of the rhythm ijexa). This is known as "Coco na rua" (not to be confused with "cocó na rua"). Derek can also show some melodies and songs used for coco.
Ciranda is a beautiful community dance where almost everyone joins hands in a large circle (or if there are enough people, multiple concentric circles) dancing around a very small band (potentially just 3 or 4 musicians) while everyone is singing beautiful call and response songs with sweet or sorrowful melodies. Derek can teach the different drum parts, teach some songs, and lead the dance. This is often a wonderful component to use at the end of a maracatu workshop to get most people dancing and everyone having a joyous time.
Carioca (Rio-style) Samba
Derek has been studying, listening to, performing, and teaching Rio-style (Carioca) samba since 1995 when he was one of the co-founders of the Handphibians in Madison, WI. Ever since 2002, Derek has attended California Brazil Camp, on staff as a dance accompanist and acting as a TA in many drum ensembles, including the advanced (always Rio-style) bateria. He has been to various escolas de samba in Rio for their rehearsals, and has sat in with G.R.E.S. Mangueira with Ailton Nunez. Derek is a long-term disciple of Jorge Alabe (first for workshops in Madison, then at Brazil Camp, and eventually in Oakland, CA where Jorge moved and Derek was the assistant director of Jorge's bateria, Grupo Samba Rio for many years).
All of this study, practice, and teaching of samba, combined with hours of dance accompanyment and dance, have made Derek a versitile and skilled teacher of Carioca Samba, getting relative novices to begin to understand the concepts and feel of this elusive style.
Samba instruction will include basic technique on the characteristic instruments of a bateria in Rio (surdo, caixa, repinique, chocalho/ganza, tamborim), ergonomics, the base or "ride" parts on all the instruments, potentially exploring the differences between the default grooves of different samba schools (escolas de samba), and learning some call and response breaks to begin to craft a musical arrangement.
Derek has also spent multiple months living in Salvador, Bahia, and completed extensive studies with leading Bahian musicians living in the USA, learning about and performing a whole family of rhythms, songs and dances generally known as "Samba Afro" and/or "Samba Reggae". These styles were popularized by groups such as Olodum (perhaps best known for their collaboration with Paul Simon on the ground-breaking album Rhythm of the Saints) and Ilê Aiyê.
Instruction includes technique and ergonomics on the typical instruments (surdo, caixa/snare, repinique, timbal), basic parts from different rhythms, call and response breaks, and depending on time and interest, songs and even dances.
Introduction to Candomblé Rhythms
Derek has spent years accompanying dance classes, many of which have been based on the Ketu music and dance tradition within the larger family of practices known as Candomblé. These classes have taken the characteristic movements and percussion parts used in sacred spiritual ceremonies, and used them as inspiration for creating works of art in the form of music and dance. Through this process, and with direct studies under master musicians from the sacred traditions such as Jorge Alabe from the Ketu nation (nação), and Nininho from the Nação Nagô, Derek has learned the fundamental aspects of the interlocking parts that comprise various rhythms from some of the different traditions. The workshops will explore these interlocking parts, ideally on the traditional instrumentation, and then see how they can be arranged for different instruments, including maracatu or samba drum ensembles, melodies, and more.
For many years, Derek has used movement, vocalizations, and body percussion to support teaching rhythm and music. While living in the Bay Area and attending music camps, he met Keith Terry and attended the first 4 years of the International Body Music Festival (performing with the Bay Area Sonic Ensemble for the 3rd festival in Saõ Paulo). Derek’s body music workshops include Self-Breema, rhythm games to develop skills (independence, flexibility, parts for specific rhythms (maracatú, afoxé, Candomblé rhythms, samba, etc), left-right balance), ergonomics, body sound techniques, vocals, solo and group improvisation and composition. This is great training for all musicians and dancers, and can be a low volume element in your group’s performance repertoire (which can be extremely useful in certain situations).
Non-Western Rhythm Notation
The simple and intuitive notation system taught by Derek at California Brazil Camp that he and his brother Matt adapted from the sargam notation they both learned while studying North-Indian classical music at the Ali Akbar College of Music. With a little practice, it is much faster to write and easier to learn and read than typical Western music notation, and doesn't require special paper. It can also be typed with normal text (for example: D,-D,eD--,eD--). After explaining the basic rules of the notation system, Derek will use rhythms from any of the other teaching options as source material and show how to uncover the subdivisions of the music (especially the rests) and write it down. This helps to both better understand and remember. In addition to supporting the other teaching by seeing the basic rhythms written down, learning this system can be a very useful tool for musicians (and dancers) to notate, understand, and remember material (rhythm, melody, movement, etc).
Instrument Technique and Ergonomics
Derek has years of experience with body-awareness, ergonomics, technique, and ways to play music (or do anything) such that you minimize damage to yourself and your instrument, get the best sound, and maximize your energy for endurance, dancing, enjoyment, expression, whatever. His years of studying and practicing many dozens of exercies to learn North Indian classical music have shown him the value of developing relaxed and painless technique while attempting to grow as a musician, and given him a wealth of tools to use to hone musicianship.
Breema is a system of bodywork you can do on yourself or other people, and 9 Principles of Harmony, all of which aim to give us a taste of the present. Breema nurtures body-mind connection, balance (physical, mental and emotional), vitality, and self-understanding. Derek has been practicing Breema since 1995 and has been a certified Breema Instructor since March 2011. Incorporating Breema Bodywork and Self-Breema into the regular schedule of teaching will support everyone to remain present, comfortable, and fully participate, which in turn will support them to learn and remember the other material being shared. Most music lessons will begin with some Self-Breema, but it is best to schedule separate Breema Bodywork classes while Derek is in your area. Members of your group or community learn some simple bodywork sequences to practice on each other (an especially nice way to stretch and warm-up before and/or cool-down after playing). There are a number of Breema Instructors around the world, so depending on the location for Derek's teaching, there might be other instructors (either locally or who could get there) and there could be a short (2-3 days) Breema mini-intensive.