Napoleon Revels-Bey has over 25 years of experience as a drummer-percussionist, educator, artist, composer, and writer. He and his ensembles have led programs in various genres, including Jazz, Modern, World Music, tap, and theater arts. Napoleon – who grew up in Hempstead, N.Y. – has performed at venues from Broadway to Jazz Festivals, and worked with artists including Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin.
What are your current projects?
I have a C.A.S.A at PS 184 and PS 17. Cultural After School Adventures (C.A.S.A.), are afterschool grants offered through the City of New York. We are studying Rhythms Around the World (Cuba, U.S., North Africa, West Africa, Caribbean, and New Orleans). I teach the connections between the cultural influences of drumming from Africa and movement onto the rest of the world through the use of bucket drumming.
The C.A.S.A. at PS 184 includes a collaboration with SongHee Lee (Korean drumming) and Pepe Santana Andeau (panpipes). The final performance will include a performance with all three cultural elements. I’m also excited to be doing a virtual residency with seniors through the Self-Help Center.
How did you get started?
My mother played the piano and I grew up around music. I started on the piano and sang in the school choir, but really preferred playing the drums, because of the physicality. I took lessons and started playing professionally in high school.
What are your favorite memories at Flushing Town Hall?
I was honored to have my students perform at the gala. I was so very pleased with their performance and how well-mannered they were. I also enjoyed the Golden Global workshops with the younger kids. This may be the first time they are introduced to the entire range of percussion instruments. Also, the students from PS 17 were part of a concert that I was involved in at the Freeport Library in Long Island to demonstrate their bucket drumming skills.
What else are you working on?
I want to develop more programs for children, including storytelling. I recently did a lecture about Martin Luther King on unity, love, and respect, tying in history and the arts. I also lead a non-profit because I want to make a bigger impact (using drama, lectures, etc.) while having greater freedom. Our mission is to use art to change lives. We want to reach the community through library programs, prison outreaches, juvenile detention centers, anti-bullying programs, and so forth. My company, Revels-Bey Music, conducts residencies and workshops with local schools in the Bronx.
What are you looking forward to?
Making a CD with my group The Rhythm Kings, public concerts in Brooklyn at Sista’s Place, and collaborating with Teaching Artist April Armstrong in a concert at Flushing Town Hall this summer. I’ve been invited to audition my bucket drummers for “The Jimmy Fallon” show twice now. This would include students from the afterschool programs I’m involved with.
What influences you?
Buddha, my social conscience, knowing where you come from “a tree without roots”…
What are your favorite types of music?
There are so many, but Motown and Jazz (especially Miles Davis and Johnny Coltrane).
What do you do in your free time?
Everything I do is related to my music; everything is connected for me.
Global Vision: It’s an exciting time to be yourself and embrace your heritage!