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A brief biography
Josh Robinson grew up around the music business and began playing pots, pans, and eventually drums in the basement in his hometown of Woodstock NY. Early musical influences include hanging around the Woodstock recording studio for sessions, sitting in on “Blues Break”, his fathers weekly radio show, and getting to sound check Levon Helm’s drum set while his father worked as a sound engineer for “The Band” with whom he toured the U.S and Japan. In 1989 he joined “Sankofa” drum and dance ensemble where he was introduced to the instruments and rhythms of Latin, Brazilian, and Afro-Caribbean music. The rhythmic quest has taken him to Cuba and Brazil where he has studied with masters of percussion. He is currently a member of "Alo Brasil", a 14 piece Philadelphia based Samba group, and “ The Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra” a group that blends drumming traditions from Cuba, Brazil, Africa, and India. He founded “Rhythms & Roots” Latin Music ensemble in 2000 with wife Giovana, and both were selected to the 2003 & 2004 Philadelphia Music Project’s Latin Orchestra led by famed bandleader Johnny Pacheco and Cuban pianist/composer/producer Elio Villafranca. He performs on the Philly “scene” with a variety of World and Latin music groups, poets, DJ’s, theatre/ dance groups, and in a variety of styles as hired “hands“. Since 2002 he has worked with a variety of populations of children and adults as a teaching artist facilitating workshops, residencies, professional development, school assemblies, and after school programs where he uses percussion as a tool for teaching aspects of communication, teamwork, creativity, leadership, discipline, and cultural awareness through music and instrument making. He is affiliated with many arts organizations and partner organizations for his work with grieving children including T.A.P.S. Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), The Moyer Foundation, and NAGC (National Alliance For Grieving Children).
Drumming can be used as a tool to teach an array of life skills. It provides a positive and creative outlet for young people to express themselves and release their emotions in a safe space.
I often refer to the drum as my “trash truck” and “most reliable friend” where I can release (or dump out) emotions and energy created from the many challenges life presents. The drum is a place where I can escape into a world where the limitations of words aren’t present, and I can feel more than think about what I want to say.
I try to give my students tools to use the drum as an option for coping; for taking out their trash. I tell students quite simply from my own experience that there are only so many things you can hit and produce a positive result. As a child of an addict myself, I heal through helping others, and can speak about choices I have made given the hand I was dealt. You either have the perfect excuse, or fuel for a fire to burn that blueprint and write your own story.
As someone who didn’t grow up with a lot it’s important for me to show students how accessible the drum can be, by showing them how to make instruments themselves or use found objects depending on their resources to continue the work we started.
The drum also teaches critical teamwork skills. Playing in a group requires focus, discipline, respect, and accountability to yourself and others to execute for the greater good of the group. It also requires vulnerability and trust, which may lie safely protected behind one’s armor. It’s a place where the shy become leaders and where the soft-spoken become out-spoken. The drum also forces grown-ups to really HEAR children.
I am grateful for the opportunity to live my passion and help others along the way. The work we are doing here together (and I mean the whole village) is changing lives, saving lives, and empowering kids who are dealing with challenges they inherited. We can’t always give them answers, but we can give them love, hope, and tools to rise above their circumstances and become the best versions of themselves they can be.