Dean Witten
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Dean Witten

Dean Witten, Professor of Percussion and Director of Percussion Studies at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, since 1979 died on March 16, 2018, after a battle with cancer. Witten gave the world premier performances of more than 40 works for percussion. He had served as principal percussionist of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra…

Leon Ndugu Chancler
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Leon Ndugu Chancler

By Rick Mattingly Drummer, percussionist, producer, composer, clinician, and educator Leon Ndugu Chancler died on February 3, 2018 after a battle with cancer.  His website states that the name “Ndugu” is Swahili for “brother, family, kinsman—for us it means togetherness.” Judging by the huge outpouring of tributes on social media following his death, it was…

Bernard Woma
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Bernard Woma

African gyil master and teacher Bernard Woma died April 27, 2018. Woma was born in Northwestern Ghana, near the border with Burkina Faso. He began playing the gyil when he was two years old. At age five, Bernard was introduced to Ziem Tibo, a xylophone maker and player who became Bernard’s mentor and guide. Bernard…

John “Jabo” Starks
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John “Jabo” Starks

Drummer John “Jabo” Starks, who played on many of James Brown’s hits, died on May 1, 2018 at age 79. For much of the time he was with Brown, Starks played alongside drummer Clyde Stubblefield. Both drummers played on such Brown songs as “I Got the Feelin’,” “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m…

Roy Burns
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Roy Burns

By Rick Mattingly PAS Hall of Fame member Roy Burns died on May 5, 2018 after a distinguished career as a drummer, educator, author, and founder of Aquarian Accessories. He also seemed to know more musician jokes than anyone! Born in 1935 in Emporia, Kansas, Roy began taking drum lessons at age seven from the…

Vida Chenoweth
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Vida Chenoweth

The percussion world lost a pioneer of the marimba, as well as a leading ethnomusicologist, when Vida Chenoweth died in her hometown of Enid, Oklahoma on Dec. 14, 2018 at the age of 89. She was one of the first successful solo percussionists, having premiered Robert Kurka’s “Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra” (opus 34) at…

Richard Weiner
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Richard Weiner

Less than seven weeks after he was inducted into the PAS Hall of Fame, Richard Weiner passed away on December 30, 2018 at the age of 82. He was a member of the Cleveland Orchestra for 48 seasons (1963–2011), 43 years as principal percussionist. He was still on the faculty at the Cleveland Institute of…

Alan Irwin Abel
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Alan Irwin Abel

Alan Irwin Abel, who was best known as a professional hoaxer, but who also had a career as a drummer and composer of percussion pieces, died in September 2018 at age 94. He was often confused with former Philadelphia Orchestra percussionist Alan Abel. Alan Irwin Abel was born in Zanesville, Ohio, on Aug. 2, 1924….