Winthrop Students Tour Ludwig Industries

The Winthrop University percussion studio recently toured Ludwig Industries in Monroe, NC. I remember touring Ludwig when they were located on N. Damen Avenue in Chicago while attending graduate school at Northwestern University in 1976. In the early 1980s the entire facility was moved to North Carolina. Many of those old machines I saw in action at the Damen Avenue facility are still in use today. “We had some incredible engineers designing machines,” said plant manager Jim Kinsey. “When we moved to Monroe, we figured ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ so we’ve just kept using those great old machines.”

Some little-known facts I learned on this tour:

Since there is such limited demand for 20″ fiberglass timpani, they don’t use a mold for the 20″ drums. If you order a complete five-drum set of fiberglass timpani, the 20″ will be made of aluminum and painted the same copper color. The original color of the fiberglass is whitish grey, and the original color of the aluminum is a dull silver.

Rack of timpani bowls ready for drilling

Drilling timpani bowl for the tuning gauge assembly

It takes two hours of sanding on a specially-designed machine to bring a copper timpani kettle to the mirror-like finish we are accustomed to.


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Artie Lieberman’s Mallet Instrument Service

Artie’s father was a bread deliveryman in Manhattan. One of his best customers was Lionel Hampton, who liked to have his breakfast at a certain coffeeshop in Greenwich Village at 4:00 AM, when Mr. Lieberman typically delivered fresh bread. Artie’s father asked Lionel Hampton if he would recommend someone to teach his son to play drums. Hampton referred Mr. Lieberman to Freddie Albright, who agreed to teach young Artie, on the condition that they must begin on the xylophone. Once Artie learned to read music on the xylophone, they could begin to split the lessons between xylophone and drums. Lessons progressed nicely, and later on Mr. Lieberman again approached Lionel Hampton asking about the purchase of a used vibraphone for his son. Hampton replied that he happened to have one he wasn’t using and would sell it for $300.00. The recently refurbished instrument remains in Artie’s collection and is pictured above.

Artie has dozens of vintage and new instruments in his collection, including many one-of-a-kind instruments such as those pictured below. Highly sought-after instruments such as Deagan roundtop bells, Deagan songbells, specially-made bass marimbas and extended-range chimes are available for rental. (more…)


NAFDA South – Atlanta 9/12/09

NAFDA South Flyer

Dear Friends,

This is a terrific opportunity to immerse yourself in frame drumming for a day in the Atlanta area September 12. You get five workshops with notable frame drum experts plus an evening concert for just $100! I think it’s a great deal. My students and I will be there performing some new works in the evening concert. Check us out on YouTube here:

To reserve a spot at NAFDA South, send email to or visit

Hope to see you there!



World Percussion Ensemble Literature


At PASIC 2005, I participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the PAS World Percussion Committee. My portion of the discussion had to do with percussion ensemble literature. I compiled a handout of representative percussion ensemble literature influenced to some degree by world music. The list is loosely categorized by geographical influence (Asian, African, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, etc.). We ran out of handouts at PASIC (who knew so many people would come to a panel discussion?), and over the years I have received emails from people requesting a copy. For those interested, it is now on my website in the “Writings” section, or you can just click here




Welcome to the B. Michael Williams blog


Welcome to my news page and blog.  Over the years I’ve had experiences or insights that I thought were worth sharing with a wider audience, but may not have been so significant or thoroughly researched as to warrant a published article. Perhaps this blog will be the perfect venue for little tidbits I’ve discovered about this and that.

I guess I’m a bit of an anomaly in the percussion world, but maybe not. After all, percussionists are by nature “jacks of all trades.” I began my career as an orchestral percussionist and high school band director, then did some research and writing on John Cage, wrote some pieces for frame drums, studied West African drumming, and later learned to play a lamellaphone from Zimbabwe. Some years ago I remember asking a colleague what he’d thought of an article I’d recently published about Stockhausen’s percussion solo No. 9 Zyklus. His response was, “You wrote that? I thought it was another Michael Williams.”

The fact is, diversity is what we percussionists do best. My teacher at Northwestern University, Terry Applebaum, always said, “Our virtuosity is our versatility.” I took that wisdom to heart and it is a major platform in my teaching philosophy. Anyway, I hope to engage you on these pages with some observations, experiences, and my own questions about a variety of topics; frame drums, djembe, contemporary percussion, percussion education, mbira, and my own musings about everything from Almglocken to Zen.

Thanks for visiting… and come back any time!