One day, when Dr. Gregory Beyer was a graduate student studying percussion in New York City, he was browsing at the famous 46th Street institution Drummer’s World when he heard an amazing sound coming from the back room. He followed the sound and found a lifetime of musical passion.
Beyer will share that story and discuss the journey it launched when he appears on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday this weekend, Jan. 22. The show will air from 7 to 9 a.m. locally on the NIU-based NPR station, WNIJ (89.5 FM).
The instrument he heard that day nearly two decades ago was a berimbau, a centuries-old Afro-Brazilian musical bow. The instrument has gradually become the center of his studies and is now the focus of his not-for-profit organization, Arcomusical. The organization advocates for the artistic development of the instrument through research, composition, publication, community and performance.
The performance element has taken Beyer and his sextet Projeto Arcomusical, which includes recent NIU graduate Alexis C. Lamb, ’16, across the country and to Brazil, where the group’s innovative compositions drew standing ovations.
“When we play in the U.S., people are curious about the instrument,” he said. “In Brazil, everyone knows the berimbau – it’s an icon of Afro-Brazilian culture – but nobody expects what we play. They were very moved.”
Projeto Arcomusical’s album “MeiaMeia,” a composition cycle that Beyer and Lamb co-composed, is selling well and is being played nationally and internationally on shows that focus on world music. It is available for purchase from Amazon and iTunes.
This spring the group will tour the Midwest and East Coast with stops at universities such as UW-Madison, Bowling Green, Baldwin-Wallace Princeton, The Juilliard School, UMASS-Amherst and the Boston Conservatory. The end of the tour will allow Beyer to go full circle, as the group will perform in a percussion festival at the well-known Brooklyn music theater National Sawdust.