The career of Todd Hammes continues to unfold, through frequent performances, powerful interactive workshops, profound educational contributions, prolific compositional output, and untiring efforts to bring the gift of music to an ever-widening and enormously receptive audience.
This gifted artist is one of a rare breed of percussionists, balancing sensitivity and control with creativity and raw energy – an uncommon artist whose life and training have prepared him for the exciting career he enjoys today.
Through the breadth of his musical endeavors, Todd creates meaningful connections between himself, his students, colleagues and audiences everywhere.
Born in 1969 and raised in Onalaska, Wisconsin, Todd has spent his life pursuing his own plan. An avid performer since age five, he never missed an opportunity to study or perform. It’s an inclination that has served him well – while a student at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, and at the University of Arizona, where he studied with renowned pedagogue Gary Cook. Beginning in 1989 he performed with Tucson Symphony Orchestra, as well as with countless others of Tucson’s finest musicians. In 2007 Todd began working on a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a Paul Collins Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellow under the guidance of Dr. Anthony DiSanza. While working on the degree Todd was co-director of the World Percussion Ensemble, created a tabla class, and and became a mainstay of the percussion faculty upon graduation in 2010.
Today, residing in Madison, Wisconsin, Todd teaches, composes and performs with an ever-widening network of friends and musicians. Todd regularly performs with Ben Sidran, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and the Madison Symphony. He also teaches percussion and world musics at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College.
In addition to his virtuosity, Todd’s special gift is creating musical connection with others so that, in live performance, the line between stage and audience becomes at times nearly imperceptible.
It was at the U of A that Todd decided to devote himself to hand drumming. Upon graduating with a B. M. in 1992, he turned down several offers from graduate schools, instead charting his own course of independent study.
In 1993, Bob Becker of the acclaimed percussion ensemble Nexus introduced Todd to the Indian master tabla artist Pandit Sharda Sahai, with whom he studied faithfully until Panditji’s passing in 2011. While tabla is his favorite instrument, the application of Indian drumming concepts to Western music is what most intrigues him.
Along his way Todd has sought out many other master drummers for study, most notably Glen Velez for frame drumming, as well as notable Latin, African and Middle Eastern musicians.
Even with the range of his world music influences, Todd remains a Western musician who relates extraordinarily well to American audiences and students young and old. He has performed at over 2000 events, on many recordings, and has extensively studied classical, chamber and western contemporary music.
Todd has received many commissions for the composition of original music. These include works for dance, theater, and the concert hall. An evening-long work, Remembering, was commissioned by Several Dancers Core of Atlanta and Houston. Speedway Boulevard: Tucson was commissioned by Linda Siegel, percussionist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
In 2005, Todd was awarded a prestigious McKnight Visiting Composer Residency from the American Composer’s Forum. As a McKnight Visiting Composer, Todd had the privilege of making music with the clients and staff of the South Eastern Minnesota Center for Independent Living.
Todd’s compositions are regularly performed by his unique chamber music ensemble, The Tool and Drum Ensemble. He considers himself a performer first and a composer second, so he regularly creates music for himself to perform as percussionist with these groups. Improvisation is an integral part of his music and he often writes music that is a vehicle for virtuosic improvisational displays.