Mark Walker

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Grammy Award–winning drummer, percussionist, author, and educator Mark Walker began playing drum set at age 10 and played his first professional club, concert, and recording gigs barely out of high school. After studying with the great Roy C. Knapp, he gained valuable experience performing a wide range of styles in the Chicago, Illinois, area and later became a first-call session drummer and percussionist, playing on film scores, jingles, and record dates. 

Since moving to New York in 1995, he has performed on many Grammy Award–winning albums and earned several Grammy nominations (including best instrumental composition in 2008) for his work with various artists, including Oregon, Donato Poveda, Paquito D'Rivera, and the Caribbean Jazz Project. He has also earned Indy and Jazz awards (German record manufacturers) for his work with Oregon. He has performed and recorded extensively with Michel Camilo, Dave Samuels, Andy Narell, WDR Big Band, NDR Big Band, Eliane Elias, Lyle Mays, Dave Liebman, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Rosa Passos, and many more. He has appeared on major television shows such as Late Night with David Letterman, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, PBS Presents, and BET On Jazz. He also appears on screen with Paquito D'Rivera in Fernando Trueba's Latin jazz documentary Calle 54

Walker is a professor in the Percussion Department at Berklee College of Music. At Berklee, he has created new curriculum, served on the Education Committee, and taught drummers, percussionists, and ensembles since 2001. He also has served on the faculty at Drummers Collective in New York City and has conducted master classes, clinics, and workshops in South America, North America, and Europe, both as a solo artist and with various groups. His book World Jazz Drumming, which features recorded performances by Paquito D'Rivera, was released in 2009 to critical acclaim. He also wrote for the all-star instructional drum set book Killer Grooves.

Walker continues to tour with Oregon and Paquito D'Rivera. He writes for and leads Rhythm of the Américas, a jazz octet incorporating Caribbean and South American rhythms. His solo projects include the sample/loop discs Chameleon Drums, Vol 1 & 2 and Ritmo de las Americas.

  • Career Highlights
    • Extensive touring and recording with Oregon (with Ralph Towner), Paquito D'Rivera, Lyle Mays, Michel Camilo, the Caribbean Jazz Project, Dave Samuels, Andy Narell, Rosa Passos, Eliane Elias, Dave Liebman, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Paul McCandless, Steve Rodby, Glen Moore, Marc Johnson, the WDR Big Band, the NDR Band, Claudio Roditi, and Patricia Barber
    • Performances with Michael Brecker, Joyce, Chucho Valdés, Jerry Gonzalez, Randy Brecker, Joe Lovano, the Fringe, João Bosco, Leny Andrade, Trinidad All-Stars Steel Orchestra, Simone, James Ingram, Kurt Elling, Kevin Mahogany, Ivan Lins, Chicago Chamber Musicians, National Symphony Orchestra, Sakésho, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Dave Valentin, Steve Kahn, Michael Manring, Will Lee, Bill Watrous, Richard Bona, and Sammy Davis, Jr.
    • Several nominations (including composition) for recordings with Oregon, Paquito D'Rivera, the Caribbean Jazz Project, and Donato Poveda
    • Clinician: Yamaha drums, Vic Firth sticks, Remo heads, and LP percussion, and Paiste Cymbals
  • Awards
    • Grammy Awards
    • Latin Grammy Awards

In Their Own Words

"I hope that my students come away with an appreciation for various genres of music, and I hope they catch the spark that makes us all want to play. I want them to establish a connection and maintain a close relationship with their instruments. I want them to be inspired by what's possible and use that energy to advance themselves. If somebody can develop that kind of love for the music, combined with a working knowledge of the business, there's no stopping him or her."

"The drum set labs I created, South American Rhythms for Drum Set and Caribbean Rhythms for Drum Set, are the result of my work over the years with artists like Paquito D'Rivera, Michel Camilo, Cesar Camargo Mariano and Andy Narell, with whom I've learned many of these styles. When we would play concerts in South America and the Caribbean, we'd get to experience the local culture, music, and musicians. It was a real thrill to learn these various types of music from South America and the Caribbean firsthand. I'm presenting that and giving the students a context, by familiarizing them with each style, using recordings, showing them traditional percussion patterns, and adapting it to the drum set."

"I also teach Brazilian Rhythms and Percussion, which is open to both nonpercussionists and percussionists. It's a great way to learn Brazilian music but it's also a rhythm class for people who may not necessarily have a great sense of rhythm. These classes fill up quickly with a diverse crowd of creative people."

"Carmen McCrae once said, 'It's more important to listen than it is to play.' It's such a simple concept, but very deep. It's a hard concept for some drummers to understand, but the working drummers understand it. That's why someone like Steve Gadd, one of the world's greatest drummers, plays next to nothing and everybody loves it, because he's totally supporting what's going on. He plays what the music needs. When it comes time to whip it out, he can deliver!"