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Michael Spiro

Known specifically for his work in the Latin music field, Michael Spiro is an internationally recognized percussionist, recording artist, and educator, whose career is remarkably multi-faceted.

He currently is in his third year as Professor of World Percussion at the esteemed Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, where he has developed the curriculum for teaching both Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian music and culture in both the Percussion and Jazz Departments.

He is a five-time Grammy nominee, and has performed on literally thousands of recordings, many of which he also produced. This includes several seminal rccordings in the Latin music genre such as: “BataKetu”, “Mark Levine and the Latin Tinge”, “Orquesta La Moderna Tradición”, and “Grupo Ilu-Aña”. He also has co-produced and/or played on several prominent instructional videos, including “El Lenguaje del Tambor”, “Talking Drums”, Changuito’s “The History of the Songo”, Giovanni Hidalgo, Ignacio Berroa, and of course his own DVD which was released in 2008.

His performing credits include such diverse international artists as David Byrne, Cachao, The Caribbean Jazz Project, Dori Caymmi, Changuito, Richard Egues, Frank Emilio Flynn, Ella Fitzgerald, David Garibaldi, Gilberto Gil, Giovanni Hidalgo, Ray Holman, Toninho Horta, Bobby Hutcherson, Dr. John, Mark Levine and the Latin Tinge, The Machete Ensemble, Bobby McFerrin, Andy Narell, Ray Obiedo, Chico O'Farrill, Eddie Palmieri, Lazaro Ros, David Rudder, Carlos Santana, Grace Slick, Omar Sosa, Talking Drums, Clark Terry, McCoy Tyner, Wayne Wallace, and Charlie Watts. He has recorded soundtracks to such major motion pictures as Soapdish, Henry and June, True Stories, Sworn To The Drum, Walker, Eddie Macon's Run, and Dragon-The Life of Bruce Lee; and wrote several arrangements for the Tony Award winning Broadway show “BLAST!” which was released on DVD by PBS in 2002.

He is an acclaimed author, having published three books on Afro-Cuban percussion, including “TimbaFunk”, “Tiempo”, and “The Conga Drummer’s Guidebook”, the latter of which has become the standard for intermediate and advanced conga study. Finally, three years ago he launched two ground-breaking educational websites–www.congamasterclass.com, and www.sambamasterclass.com, both of which offer complete and comprehensive instruction on the internet of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian music and culture.

His formal education includes a Bachelor's Degree with Honors in Latin American Studies from the University of California, and three and a half years of graduate work in ethnomusicology at the University of Washington. His practical education consists of a seven-year apprenticeship with the late Francisco Aguabella (b. d. May 7, 2010), and extensive study throughout Latin America. He has studied annually in Cuba since 1984 with musicians such as Jose Luis Quintana ("Changuito"), Esteban Vega Bacallao ("Cha-Cha"), Daniel Diaz and Juan "Claro" Blanco of “La Orquesta Ritmo Oriental”, Regino Jimenez, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, and Grupo Afro-Cuba de Matanzas. In addition, in 1986 he spent two months training at G.R.E.S. Portela, the famous Escola de Samba in Rio de Janeiro, has maintained regular study with Mestre Jorge Alabe since 1990, and then returned to Rio in 2008 to further deepen his knowledge of carioca music and culture.

In addition to his position at Indiana University, Michael is a frequent visiting artist at universities worldwide. He has been a Guest Artist or Artist in Residence at literally at over 150 colleges throughout North America and Europe, teaches annually at a variety of international Music Workshops and clinics, and continues to be a presenter at national and statewide conventions of P.A.S. (The Percussive Arts Society) every year.

Although Michael teaches full time at Indiana University, he still records and produces in a wide variety of genres throughout the Unites States, and he remains an integral part of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene. He continues to co-lead (with violinist Tregar Otten) the only surviving Charanga group in the United States devoted to preserving the classic Afro-Cuban “danzón” sound, “Orquesta La Moderna Tradición”. This Orquesta continues to play festivals throughout the US (including New York’s Lincoln Center), and under his direction has released three celebrated CDs over the last decade. Five years ago he teamed with Santana veteran Karl Perrazzo to form “Conjunto Karabali”, an 11 piece Latin band devoted to the traditional Afro-Cuban conjunto sound, which has become arguably the number one Latin dance band in the Bay Area. Finally, he holds the conga drum chair in Wayne Wallace’s Latin Jazz quintet, which has just completed its sixth CD in the last five years, and is receiving international critical praise for its ensemble sound, skill, and maturity.