“I work with my students to build a technical foundation based on relaxed movement that can be applied to all of the diverse instruments in the percussion family.”
M.M., Manhattan School of Music
B.M., Manhattan School of Music
Percussionist Eric Phinney began taking lessons when he was 6 years old, although “I really started with the pots and pans in my mom’s kitchen, and then moved to a toy drum set my parents bought for me to get out of the kitchen. I find it ironic that the arc of a percussionist can start with pots and pans in pre-school and then come full circle as a professional when contemporary scores call for pots and pans to be played in concert.” Born and raised in Albany Eric moved to New York City to attend Manhattan School of Music and has remained in the city since.
Eric focuses on helping his students build a solid technical foundation “based on relaxed movement that can be applied to all of the diverse instruments in the percussion family. I also try to expose my students to all of the different kinds of music in the world that use percussion as an integral component.” While Eric does believe that children 6 and younger can benefit from rhythm classes and group exercises, he generally begins teaching students who are 7 and older “because of the attention and coordination necessary to strike an instrument with a stick or mallet.” Eric also teaches adults, tailoring his approach to help them “define and reach their goals.”
Eric has also spent considerable time studying Indian tabla drumming, West African ensemble drumming, and the West African xylophone. “The most important series of events in my musical life and otherwise was to explore music from other parts of the world. I found master players who spent some time in NYC, and that led me to go to Calcutta, India and Accra, Ghana to study. I started to feel like a citizen of the world and it was totally inspiring to be in contact with master musicians of the highest level from other cultures.” Eric believes this experience, coming as a professional musician after receiving his master’s degree, also made him a more sensitive teacher. “In each case, I had to be a total beginner again because I needed to learn a new technique and musical language. It was humbling, but has also helped my teaching because I was in the same position as my younger students, and I relived that exploration again as an adult.”
In addition to teaching and performing, Eric is also an active member of Ethos Percussion Group, a quartet dedicated to advancing percussion chamber music. In his free time, Eric is an avid sports fan, and enjoys “following everything from the Mets and Giants to European soccer.”