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John Bergamo (May 28, 1940 – October 19, 2013) was an American percussionist and composer. Since 1970 he has been the coordinator of the percussion department at the California Institute of the Arts.
In 1959 Bergamo attended the Lenox School of Jazz in Lenox Mass. next door to Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony. Under a scholarship, Bergamo studied drumset with Max Roach; had Percy Heath and Kenny Dorham as jazz band instructors; studied history and theory with Gunther Schuller, Marshall Stearns and George Russell; and was classmates with Ornette Coleman, and Don Cherry. In 1962 Bergamo earned an M.M. degree from Manhattan School of Music (studying percussion with Paul Price and composition with Michael Colgrass), followed by three summers in Tanglewood and time in New York City as a freelance musician.
In the fall of 1964, he joined the Creative Associates at the State University at Buffalo. This group was formed by Lukas Foss, and its members included percussionist Jan Williams; composers George Crumb, Sylvano Bussoti, Mauricio Kagel, and Fred Myrow; Bassist Buell Neidlinger; oboist / saxophonist Andrew N. White III; singers Carol Plantamura, Sylvia Brigham Dimiziani, and Larry Bogue; composer / trombonist Vinko Globokar; violinist Paul Zukofsky; clarinetist Sherman Friedlander; cellist Jay Humeston; composer / pianist Michael Sahl; violist Jean Depuey; and flutist Karl Kraber. The Creative Associates at SUNY Buffalo explored the avant-garde in a wide variety of 20th Century styles, and performed regularly in Buffalo and in New York's Carnegie recital Hall. Some of the results of this group included the first book of madrigals by George Crumb, Vibone by Vinko Globokar, Passion Selon Sade by Sylvano Bussotti, and Songs From the Japanese by Fred Myrow. From this group Bergamo became involved in smaller "sub-groups" with Buell Neidlinger, Charles Gayle, and Andrew White; and a trio with George Crumb and Paul Zukofsky.
Relocating to the west coast in 1968, Bergamo taught briefly at the University of Washington, before coming to CalArts in 1970, where he taught from when the school's doors first opened until his retirement in 2005. Upon moving to the West Coast Bergamo became heavily involved in the study of North and South Indian drumming as well as other non-European drumming traditions. Bergamo studied tabla with Mahaparush Misra, Shankar Ghosh, Swapan Chaudhuri, and South Indian drumming with T.H. Subashchandran, T.H. Vinayakram, T. Rangnathan, Poovalur Srinivasan, P.S. Venkatesan. Bergamo has also studied North Indian classical music with Ali Akbar Khan at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California, leading to a spell as Khansahib's road manager in late 1960s, and later playing with Ali Akbar Khan on works of a contemporary nature (e.g. the album: Journey in 1990). In 1979 Bergamo became perhaps the first Westerner to study the thavil in Chennai, India.
Over the course of his career, he has performed with Frank Zappa, Nexus, Dave Liebman, Ali Akbar Khan, Lou Harrison, Malcolm Goldstein, Mickey Hart, Emil Richards, Shadowfax, L. Shankar, Glen Velez, Repercussion Unit, Lukas Foss, Gunther Schuller, Walter Quintus, Charles Wuorinen (The Group for Contemporary Music at Columbia University), Shakti with John McLaughlin, Trichy Sankaran, and Steve Gadd, and participated in the "World Drums" performance at Expo 86.
In addition, he has performed on the soundtracks of a number of Hollywood films, including Act of Violence, Altered States, Bad News Bears go to Japan, Chapter Two, Crossroads, The Exorcist II, The Heretic, Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), L.A. Story, National LAmpoon's Class Reunion, Perfect Weapon, Popeye, The Possessed, Project X, A Reflection of Fear, The Scarecrow Sniper, Tarzan the Ape Man, and Who's Harry Crumb.
Bergamo has co-founded two all-percussion groups: The Repercussion Unit in 1976 with Larry Stein, Ed Mann, James Hildebrandt, Gregg A. Johnson, Paul Anceau, and Steven "Lucky" Mosko; and The Hands On'Semble with Andrew Grueschow, Randy Gloss and Austin Wrinkle in 1997.
His music is published by Smith Publications.
- 1977 - Zappa, Frank. Zappa in New York. Barking Pumpkin.
- 1986 - Bergamo, John. On the Edge. CD. Cologne, Germany: CMP Records.
- 1990 - Harrison, Lou. Music for Guitar and Percussion. [Netherlands]: Etcetera; N[ew] Y[ork]: Dist. by Qualiton Imports. (John Bergamo, conducts the Cal Arts Percussion Ensemble in the first work, Canticle no. 3.)
- 1987 - World Drums. Directed by Niv Fichman. Produced by Rhombus Media.
- 1990 - Bergamo, John. The Art & Joy of Hand Drumming. Directed by Toby Keeler. Brattleboro, Vermont: Interworld Music Associates.
- Ziemba, Christine N. (October 22, 2013). "CalArts Mourns Percussionist and Long-time Faculty Member John Bergamo". CalArts blog. Retrieved October 24, 2013.