Robert Chappell's career has encompassed an inclusive range of musical styles and genres in performance, education and composition. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, his first musical experiences were with this father, an accomplished pianist. Robert's formal education includes degrees in percussion performance from the Ohio State University and the University of North Texas, where he studied jazz and toured with the renowned One O'clock Lab Band.
As a performer, Robert has been a member of the Columbus, Ft. Worth, Dallas, Indianapolis, and Illinois Chamber Symphonies. Chappell was keyboardist/percussionist with the Paul Winter Consort for five years, touring throughout the U.S., Japan, Canada, and Mexico and recording two albums. He formed his own world-jazz group Rhythmic Union in 1980 which toured extensively and released two albums on Inner City Records.
Currently, Robert performs, tours, and records with steelpan virtuoso Liam Teague in the Liam Teague + Robert Chappell duo, and a six-member world-jazz group they founded, Panoramic. Chappell and Teague released their duo CD For Lack of Better Words in 2003, and the Panoramic CD, Rhythm through the Unobstructed View was released in 2006. The duo’s latest CD, Open Window, was released in 2011 and includes new works for steelpan in chamber music settings.
Chappell's interest in world percussion began in the early 1970's and has resulted in studies of Ugandan amadinda xylophone, West African drumming, and East Indian tabla with Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri. In 1990 he received an Indo-American Research Fellowship to continue study with the renowned tabla master Ustad Alla Rakha in Mumbai, India.
Active as an educator for 35 years, Chappell has taught at Indiana State University, and was a Distinguished Teaching Professor and Head of Percussion Studies at Northern Illinois University from 1984 to 2012. He has also taught at the National Institute of the Arts, in Taipei, Taiwan, and the Instituto Nacional de Música in San José, Costa Rica. He currently splits his semesters, teaching in the fall at NIU and in the spring in Costa Rica.
A composer in contemporary, jazz, and cross-cultural idioms, Robert's compositions have been published by Marimba Productions, Panyard Publications, Drop6, and Pan Press. He was the winner of the 2006 Percussive Arts Society composition competition with Open Window for tenor pan and marimba. His works are noted for integrating seemingly unrelated genres into a musical totality. Wood-N-Steel, for steel band and African amadinda xylophone, was premiered by the Northern Illinois University Steel Band at the National Concert Hall in Taipei, Taiwan. The orchestral version has been performed with the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Rockford Symphony and the Buffalo Philharmonic. Wood-N-Steel propelled the NIU Steel Band to a second place finish in the World Steel Band Festival 2000 held in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies the home of the steelpan.
Robert is a Yamaha Performing Artist and endorses Sabian cymbals, Evans drum heads and Innovative Percussion mallets and sticks.