The New York Times says "A galaxy of timbres and inflections ... remarkable rhythmic fireworks." Five-time GRAMMY Award winner, Glen Velez is the founding Father of the modern Frame Drum movement and is regarded as a legendary figure among musicians and audiences world-wide. Velez brought a new genre of drumming to the contemporary music scene by creating his own performance style inspired by years of percussion and frame drumming studies from various cultures. Velez's virtuosic combinations of hand movements, finger techniques, along with his original compositional style, which incorporates stepping, drum language and Central Asian Overtone singing (split-tone singing), has undoubtedly opened new possibilities for musicians around the globe, resulting in a shift in modern percussion.
Velez is the first percussionist to gain international recognition as a successful solo artist using frame drums. In 1989 Velez’s undeniable mastery caught the attention of twentieth century composer John Cage, who Composed a piece especially for him, titled 'Improvisation for One-Sided Drum with or without Jingles.' Adorned with a rich international artistic legacy his plethora of sounds have inspired decades of collaborations with an epic and eclectic list, including Steve Reich, the Paul Winter Consort, Suzanne Vega, Maya Beiser, Tan Dun and Pat Metheny. Other collaborations include: Israel Philharmonia, Brooklyn Philharmonia, Opera Orchestra of New York, Taipei Chinese Orchestra, Zakir Hussain, Sonny Fortune, New York City Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke's, David Darling, Howard Levy, Eugene Friesen and Coleman Barks. Live performances also include radio concerts and interviews broadcasted on Spanish National Radio 4, German Public Radio, Italian National Radio 3, Radio Freistadt (Austria) and National Public Radio. Velez maintains an International touring schedule as a soloist and continues to collaborate with prominent artists in many styles. His most recent concerts are presented as TA KA DI MI Project and feature the virtuosic rhythm vocalist Lori Cotler as well as illustrious guest artists.
Velez is a prolific session musician and his signature sound can be heard on numerous films, television commercials and modern dance scores. He is also an experienced collaborator in Early Music, including a renown recording with the Ensemble for Early Music entitled Istampita. Velez has recorded on hundreds of albums on ECM, CBS, RCA, GRP, Warner Brothers, Deutsche Gramophone, Geffen, Nonesuch, Capital, CMP, Music of the World, Sounds True, Interworld, Ellipsis Arts. Daftof Records and Sony. In addition he has released numerous recordings of his own music. Glen's most recent recordings are Glen Velez Solo and Breathing Rhythms Duo - Glen Velez and Lori Cotler (Daftof records).
Glen is a prolific composer whose compositions have been used extensively by dance companies and he has written numerous compositions for his own ensembles as well as chamber music for various combinations. His compositions have been commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation, Jerome Foundation, American Music Center and Reader's Digest. Velez wrote a solo cello piece for Cellist Maya Beiser, entitled Kinship, which Beiser chose as the title for one of her recent CD's. Another of Glens compositions, Sol Tunnels, was commissioned by the Ethos Percussion Ensemble and is the title for one of their new recordings. In 2009 the Ensemble DuoJalal premiered his composition Homage for Viola and Frame Drum. He has been commissioned in 2010 by the Lark String Quartet to compose a piece for String Quartet and Frame Drum.
Velez has several instructional videos and has published numerous instructional books and articles on the subject. He is a master teacher who conducts workshops worldwide. Velez developed his own teaching approach called The Handance Method, which incorporates voice and body movement into the process of learning to play the frame drum and has been presented in hundreds of universities and conservatories. Velez is an adjunct professor at Mannes School of Music in New York City and conducts regular master classes at The Juilliard School and Tanglewood Summer Music Program.
For over 35 years, Glen has researched and catalogued several thousand years of Frame Drum history. His pictorial collection includes a vast array of representations of the Frame Drum though history, from the most ancient times to the present. Glen's groundbreaking research has inspired a host of his protégés to delve into the rich legacy of the Frame Drum. In 2010 Glen began to present highlights from the catalogue of material showing the breadth and quality of the many depictions. Recent presentations have included The Research Center for Music Iconography at the City University of New York, The Graduate Center and ICTM Study Group for Music Archaeology with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the North American Frame Drum Association (NAFDA). Glen is scheduled to make a featured presentation at NAFDA North Festival (Vermont) and Tamburi Mundi (Freiburg, Germany) in Summer 2011. Plans are in the works to create an online Glen Velez Research Library which Velez will offer to the public as a free database to his research.
The frame drum is one of the most ancient types of musical instruments. It is a single headed drum, which includes the Western tambourine, whose origins encompass the Ancient Middle East, India, Rome and which reached medieval Europe through Islamic culture. During Glen Velez's illustrious career he has single-handedly popularized this ancient drum for the modern world. His performances prompted the Remo Drum Co. in 1983 to develop a line of frame drums called the Glen Velez Signature Series. The Cooperman Drum Co. introduced a hand made Signature Series Glen Velez Tambourine and Frame Drum line in 1999. Velez is also considered a virtuoso on other percussion instruments and has introduced dramatic innovations in the playing of Maracas and Shakers, which are outlined in his instructional book, The Shaker Manual. This new approach to playing Shakers led the German based instrument company ANKLANG MUSIKWELT to release a handcrafted Glen Velez Signature Series Shaker set. These instruments are carefully designed based on their specific high - low tuning and ergonomic shape.