Tony Vacca Tony Vacca's World Rhythms
Tony Vacca
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TONY VACCA: Solo School Programs

TONY VACCA: Solo School Programs
Over the past fifteen years, Tony has developed workshop programs that include master classes and percussion residencies. He also offers in-school presentations that include concerts, a comprehensive variety of "hands-on" workshops for students, and professional development for faculty.

Tony's solo school programs usually include one or more of the following:


Whether in concert at a prestigious World Music festival, or on the stage at your school, Tony's performances tend to be mind-bending, all-out physical spectacles on the nature and power of music. Tony performs from his repertoire of songs, using a world of percussion instruments that include giant West African balafons, talking drums, a hybrid percussion/drum set, and a set of over 20 gongs. There's a lot of audience participation, usually one Spoken Word piece, and performances by workshop groups are often included. Concerts can be from 45 minutes to two hours, but are usually about one hour long.

EVENING CONCERTS that are open to the public and that include student performance groups are a great way to connect your school with the surrounding community. They take some planning but are always more than worth the effort.


In this "hands-on" session, Tony will apply over two decades of experience as a drummer/composer, and over a dozen trips to West Africa, to create and teach a percussion composition. He'll use djembe drums, gongs, rattles, an orchestra of tuned bells, and a wide variety of other percussion instruments. Students will learn call-and-response phrases and chants, and then learn several signals in order to play five sections within this composition. These pieces involve combinations of rhythms that connect African, Caribbean and American traditions. This ensemble will be able to perform what they've learned for their peers in a concert setting as part of their preparation. Approximately one hour. All instruments provided.

Tony demonstrates how he creates and assembles his music and poetry. Then, through a series of activities, students collectively create a group spoken word piece, and collaborate with Tony to shape the musical accompaniment. Students are also encouraged to bring poetry they've written, and to be prepared to not only read it, but to perform it with the group. (This is usually a ninety-minute session.)

Here we explore not only the nature of sound and vibration in the creation of music, but also the powerful effects that the sounds we call music have on our bodies and minds. We use giant Paiste gongs to demonstrate vibrations so huge that you can hear, see and feel them, and then we create a percussion ensemble to apply and experience what we've discovered.

We cover the basics of what we know about sound; from sound waves and the connection of pitch to frequency of vibration; from the speed of sound to the relationship of the amplitude of a sound wave to its perceived volume. It's all focused on sound as a powerful form of energy, and how we use sound to create one of the greatest of all human marvels... music. This is truly an "above-and beyond" kind of experience; one in which the science is as much empirical as it is visceral.

We are rhythmic creatures on a rhythmic planet in a rhythmic universe. We don't just like rhythm, we are made of it, and live under its influence. I'm talking about forces like the rhythm of one day as we rotate to make the dark and light of day and night... like the rhythm in one year as we circle the sun... or like the rhythm of your favorite song, because it's all just like the rhythms we play on the drum. We're built to experience the physical power of sound, but it takes a mathematical awareness to build sound into rhythm, rhythm into songs, and songs into a powerful experience.

So in this workshop we start with call-and-response mimicry, and then move into more literal mathematical representations of what makes rhythm so attractive to us. We use diagrams to illustrate the geometry of overlapping rhythms; we use simple symbols and numbers in a graph-paper grid to demonstrate rhythm, syncopation and polyrhythm, and then we apply this by writing out and reading rhythms that we invent. We then weave these into a short composition. The goal is to create an awareness of the clarity and exactness that is required for a rhythm to be effective, and for the listener or the player to comprehend the math at the source of the music.

Mathematics and music have a common source: they are illustrations of our extraordinary ability to see patterns in the world around us. We use the patterns of our mathematics to predict other unforeseeable patterns, (statistics, astronomy, etc.) and we use patterns to create the rhythm that drives a song, a poem, or a drum solo; all of which inspire and energize us.

Showing students (especially those who take refuge in listening to and/or playing music) the connection between the math and music gives them a familiar and enjoyable point of reference from which to approach math. For the student that loves music but doesn't do well in math class, this often changes their perspective and their level of proficiency as well.


"A lifetime career in the realm of World Music and Jazz has taught me the value of having mentors and role models. There were many of them in my life: from my first drum instructor, to the many drummers I've met and worked with around the world, to the more famous names like Don Cherry and Baaba Maal. Their generosity was a lesson to me, and now I've made sure to return the favor by working with young students in a variety of settings; from in-school to after school, to summer camps.and from elementary to high school levels, and especially middle schools."

"When I do workshops with them, it's always a 'hands-on' experience. The instruments they use in all of these workshops are my concert instruments. I want to affirm to them that what they are doing matters, and the best way to do that is to give them the best tools to work with. So of course it follows that when I perform for them, it's got to be the best I've got. I know they listen to a ton of music, so I want to offer them something that excites them, and that challenges them to listen in a new way. They clearly get that what I am doing is way out of the ordinary, but they just as quickly get that it involves things that are familiar to them as well. When we collaborate, it's a laboratory of ideas, in which we are all teachers and learners. I genuinely dig it, and the students can see and feel that. So of course they bring their best, and it all becomes an upward spiralthat you'd have to see, and hear, and be part of, to fully appreciate."

"I especially enjoy customizing my skills into a specifically designed set of workshops and concerts that fit your needs and visions. So if you don't see just what you're looking for, let's create it together."


Full Day: $1400 This provides for up to four sessions of concerts and workshops in any combination. Two additional workshops can be had if Massamba presents his own workshops in a separate space, running simultaneously with Tony's presentations.

Half Day: $900. Half days are usually only done after a full day at the same location.

Evening community concerts for schools on the evening of full day presentations are $1000.

Costs include sound system and all instruments necessary for workshop programs, unless the group has to fly to the location.

We suggest building a day of activities that fit your specific needs, and getting Tony and faculty involved in the planning. Evening concerts are especially popular; they give the entire community a chance to support and be part of what's going on in the school, and have a great time in the process.

Feel free to call or contact:
World Rhythms P.O. Box 1172 Northampton, MA 01061-1172
phone:(413) 665-1067;;
Once we've discussed how to shape the program, we'll have you work with Ms. Jean Butler, who books and arranges our work in schools. Her contact info is: Phone: 978 263-0101; email:

World Rhythms: tel/fax 413.665.1067 • email:

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