Bertram Lehmann

Based in Boston for three decades, Bertram Lehmann is a sought-after player within a multitude of musical contexts in the New England region and beyond, primarily performing jazz, Latin, and world music. A Berklee faculty member since 2004, he is active in the Percussion, Ear Training, and Liberal Arts departments of the college. Equally in demand as a drummer as well as a percussionist, he continues to draw on his extensive instrumental experience and background as both a performer and a scholar of a wide array of musical genres and styles. Rooted in solid initial orchestral percussion training and his first professional exposures, he quickly expanded into jazz and other contemporary genres, and since then has become one of the top experts on Caribbean and South American drum set practice, as well as other traditions from the African diaspora and also Africa, India, and the Mediterranean.

  • Career Highlights
    • Appearances and/or recordings with artists including Paquito D'Rivera, Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, Anat Cohen, and Antonio Sanchez, among others, and international tours in Russia, India, Bermuda, South Korea, and the British Virgin Islands, among others
    • Over 60 recordings, including recent releases with the Klaus Spencker Trio on Crossing Borders, Felipe Salles’ Interconnections Ensemble on The Lullaby Project and The New Immigrant Experience, IMAGINE 5’s self-titled debut, and Ian Ethan's Earth Suite, among others
    • Performances worldwide include shows at Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; Symphony Hall and the Boston Globe Jazz Festival in Boston; the Chicago World Music Festival; the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; and the Hannover Jazz Week in Germany
    • Worked with the quintet of Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza; the Afro-Latin supergroup Mango Blue; the idiosyncratic Indo-Jazz ensemble Natraj; vocalists like Rebecca Parris and Mili Bermejo; and vibist Victor Mendoza, among many others
    • Presented clinics/workshops at the University of Bremen (Germany), Fundacio L'Aula de Musica (Spain), the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Boston campuses, Five Towns College, and Longy School of Music, among many others
    • Ethnomusicological presentations on Afro-diasporic rhythmic syntax at the Second International Symposium on the Music of Africa at Princeton University (2005) and the Third International Conference on Analytical Approaches to World Music at SOAS University of London (2014)
    • Endorsements include Aquarian drumheads; Vic Firth drum sticks; Murat Diril cymbals; DEM'Sticks specialty rods, fans, and brooms; and Black Swamp Percussion and Dynamicx snares
    • Panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts 2017 grant application review process
  • Awards
    • JAZZIZ Magazine Percussionists on Fire winner with original composition/recording "Falling"
  • Education
    • M.A., Tufts University
    • B.M., Berklee College of Music

In Their Own Words

"I'd like students to be open to appreciating all these different styles for their innate qualities. And you can always tell from the eyes of students when they are finding their own connections in the music I play for them in a history, ear training  class or private lesson. That's the beautiful thing about music: that we can look at these different traditions and their particular evolution, see what characteristic qualities they have, and from that draw our very own personal inspiration. In this sense, the jazz tradition to me still is like the best petri dish of all genres; you can always inject different musical experiences that then have the potential to connect very well at another, perhaps to be discovered level."

"What I have come to understand over the years is that while jazz is now a global phenomenon, there are more ethnic styles that haven't reached its level of global dispersion, like Cuban folkloric genres. The learning processes associated with these are more tied to their cultural settings. This means you have to hang out more with the people who come from there to learn what standards they hold themselves to. It takes time, but in this day and age with all our instructional resources, one has the chance to understand these styles to a greater degree."

"Knowing the function of percussion in different stylistic contexts and traditions is very important, as is an awareness of the instruments and what they can do. And when you decide on doing something, you need to be able to do that with consistency in sound and expression. Consistency in sound production is what builds trust."

"It's not enough to learn a drum pattern. You also need to know how the pattern works within the context of the music at large: how to pace yourself, how to balance the voices you're creating in your pattern, how to relate to the melody, and how to come in at the right point. I've been fortunate enough to have had a chance to play original music with people from Turkey and other countries, to get an idea of the sound and aesthetics associated with these styles. That's what I'm trying to transmit to students."

"In any style of music, I've always found an element that really captures me. For example, Cuban music, especially rumba, is very contrapuntal—very African in its interplay of percussion and voice. I would compare the beauty and complexity and depth of its counterpoint to a Bach fugue. Likewise, the aesthetic of the singing style of Turkish music is very deep. Yet the percussion has a completely different energy level and aesthetic than in Cuban music."