Distinguished Teaching Professor
M.M., University of North Texas
Robert Chappell's background in orchestral, jazz, and world percussion has helped give the NIU Percussion area the broad scope needed to prepare students for the ever-changing musical demands and entrepreneurial skills needed for success in the twenty-first century.
Robert joined the NIU School of Music faculty in 1983 as Head of Percussion Studies. His formal education includes degrees from Ohio State University and the University of North Texas where he toured and recorded with the renowned One O'Clock Lab Band. Among his orchestral teachers are Cloyd Duff and Joe Adato of the Cleveland Orchestra, Kal Cherry of the Dallas Symphony, and Gerald Unger of the Pittsburgh Symphony. In 2003, he was named an NIU Presidential Teaching Professor.
Robert has been a member of the Columbus, Ft. Worth, Dallas, and Illinois Chamber Symphonies and performed often with the Indianapolis and Elgin Symphonies. In the jazz/world music area, Chappell was keyboardist/percussionist with the Paul Winter Consort for five years, performing throughout the U.S., Japan, Canada, and Mexico and recording three albums. He formed his own world-jazz group Rhythmic Union, recording two albums and touring extensively. Since 1998 he has performed with steelpan artist Liam Teague in Liam Teague+ Robert Chappell. Their debut CD, For Lack of Better Words was released in 2002. Teague and Chappell recently formed a six-piece Latin/Caribbean group, Panoramic, which was featured at the 2004 Percussive Arts Society International Convention. Panoramic’s debut CD will be released in late 2004.
Chappell's interest in world percussion has resulted in studies in African drumming with Kwaku Dadey and Indian tabla drumming with Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri. In 1990 he received an Indo-American Research Fellowship to continue study with Ustad Alla Rakha in Bombay, India. During the winter of 2004, Chappell spend two months in Trinidad and Tobago, W. Indies researching the unique tassa drumming tradition of TnT. As a result of this research, NIU will be the first university in the US with a tassa ensemble.
Robert has composed works for contemporary percussion, jazz groups, and cross-cultural ensembles, and has been published by Marimba Productions, Pan Press and Panyard Publications. In 2006, Chappell's composition Open Window for steelpan and marimba won first place in the Percussive Arts Society International Composition Competition. His piece Wood-N-Steel for steelband and African amadinda xylophone, was performed by the NIU Steelband at the National Concert Hall in Taipei, Taiwan, the Seoul Drum Festival 2002 in Korea, The Percussive Arts Society International Convention, and with the Chicago Symphonietta, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and the Rockford Symphony. Wood-N-Steel was instrumental in helping the NIU Steelband finish second in the world in the World Steelband Festival 2000 in Trinidad and Tobago, W. Indies, the home of the steelpan. Chappell is a Yamaha performing artist and endorses Sabian cymbals and Mike Balter mallets.