Image courtesy of juanalamo.com.
The marimba rang as the swift mallets of Dr. Juan Alamo cascaded down the aluminum bars. His skill and prowess with the mallet instrument is apparent now, but this was considered an oddity growing up.
Born and raised in Cidra, Puerto Rico, Alamo gained interest in rhythm and percussion. Listening to various CDs, he discovered that he loved the versatility and range that marimba had to offer. While not a popular instrument in Puerto Rico, Alamo’s teacher instructed him in the art of mallet playing, as this was required for admittance into the Music Conservatory of Puerto Rico. After graduating Magna Cum Laude, he relocated his talents to the University of Northern Texas, where he continued his education with some of the best musical minds of their time. Several years later, an invitation to interview for a teaching position at the University of North Carolina moved him to where he now resides.
Classical, rock, jazz, Latin, ethnic, all of these styles hold a special place in Alamo’s heart. While no particular style stands out above the others, Alamo thoroughly enjoys performing solos, where a higher level of intimacy can be felt with the audience. The wide grin on his face as he performs demonstrates his adoration for music. “The entire room feels more comfortable when he’s there,” said fellow percussionist, Dan Davis.
Dr. Alamo has written many instructional books for beginner and intermediate mallet instruments. He is also an instructor and advocate for numerous jazz workshops. His interest in teaching began as somewhat of an accident. He was thrown into a teaching position, and he discovered that the best way to improve as a player was to help others improve. He learned that he loved helping the musicians of tomorrow. “I feel blessed that I can do what I love,” said Alamo. “My students don’t just learn what I teach them. Through teaching, I learn as much from them as they do from me.”
Interviewed: Juan Alamo (percussion), Dan Davis (percussion), Kennedy Crawford (vocalist, student)