Associate Professor of Music (Percussion)
East Studio Building, JS029
Michael Spiro is a world-renowned percussionist, recording artist, and educator, known specifically for his work in the Latin music field.
Spiro's 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 Francisco Aguabella (a relationship which continues today) 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 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.
Spiro currently resides in San Francisco, Calif., where he is an integral part of the Bay Area music scene. He records and produces with groups throughout the West Coast and still tours world-wide with the percussion trio Talking Drums, which he co-leads with David Garibaldi and Jesus Diaz. In June 1996, his recording Bata-Ketu was released on Bembe Records to international critical acclaim, including being voted one of the top 50 drum records of all time by Drum Magazine.
In 2004, Spiro received a Grammy nomination for his work as both producer and artist on Mark Levine's Latin/jazz release Isla, and, in 2005, he released BataMbira, which he wrote and produced with Professor B. Michael Williams. The CD received rave reviews around the world for its fusion of Afro-Cuban folkloric music with the mbira music of Zimbabwe, and that same year, he was voted runner-up in the jazz/fusion category in Drum Magazine's Reader's Poll Awards. In 2006, Chuck Sher Publications released his book, The Conga Drummer's Guidebook, and it has already become the standard in the field for intermediate/advanced instruction.
He is a frequent visiting artist at universities worldwide. In addition to the position he held in the Jazz Department at the University of California, Berkeley, Spiro has taught at numerous colleges throughout North America and Europe, and continues to be a presenter at national and statewide conventions of the Percussive Arts Society and the International Association of Jazz Educators.
Spiro's recording and performing credits include such diverse 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, 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 and Charlie Watts. In addition, he has recorded on 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. He also wrote several arrangements for the Tony Award-winning Broadway show BLAST!, which was released on video by PBS in 2002.