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Rich Thompson is an Associate Professor of jazz studies and contemporary media (pt) at the Eastman School of Music. In addition to his duties as artist/teacher of drum set, he also directs the Eastman Jazz Lab Band, teaches fundamentals of jazz drum set, assists in coaching the rhythm sections of small groups and big bands, and is a member of the Eastman Jazz Trio/Quartet with Harold Danko, Clay Jenkins and Jeff Campbell.


Mr. Thompson received a bachelor’s degree in music education and in percussion from the University of Oklahoma, and a master’s degree in jazz studies and contemporary media (performance) from the Eastman School of Music. In the spring of 1996, while on tour with the Count Basie Orchestra, he was asked to join the Eastman faculty. Continuing to tour with the Basie Orchestra, Rich joined the Eastman faculty in the fall of 1996. His association with the Rochester Philharmonic began in the fall of 1994 and continued through January of 2005. Under the direction of pops conductor Jeff Tyzik, Rich has been a featured soloist with the RPO, as well as with many major orchestras in the United States and Canada. He has also toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra.


Rich “freelances” out of Rochester and New York City. He performed at the IAJE 2000 convention in New Orleans with the Eastman Jazz Trio, IAJE 2002 convention in Long Beach California with Bill Dobbins and Jeff Campbell, a performance at the 2004 IAJE in NYC with the Eastman Jazz Quartet featuring guest artist Rich Perry, and another performance at the 2006 IAJE in NYC with Bill Dobbins and Jeff Campbell.  Thompson’s recording bio is extensive and can be accessed at


He appeared with the Count Basie Orchestra at the President’s Inaugural Ball (Jan. 19 1997), and spent January through July of 1996 touring with the Basie Orchestra. He was a frequent call back in ’97 and recorded a live video with the band in NYC at the well-known jazz venue Birdland. He was featured on Tito Puente’s 1996 CD release Jazzin, a collaboration CD with Tito Puente, Puente’s latin rhythm section and the Count Basie Orchestra. The Boston Herald said, in a review of the Basie band at the Boston Globe Jazz and Blues Festival that same summer, “Mr. Thompson was the powerhouse drummer who drove the Basie sound!” Rich was one of 15 semifinalists in the Thelonious Monk International Drum Competition in October 1992. In the past ten years he has played numerous times with pianist Marian McPartland, guitarist Gene Bertoncini, trumpet legend Dizzy Gillespie, guitar legend Joe Pass, and trumpet/flugelhorn great Clark Terry.


Thompson has recorded numerous times in the U.S. and France with renowned pianists Bill Dobbins (Paradise, Glass Enclosure and others.) and as a co-leader with James Williams (of Art Blakey fame) on the CD titled Eventually. He has also recorded/performed with singer Bobby McFerrin and with the Eastman Jazz Trio featuring pianist Harold Danko and bassist Jeff Campbell. Most recently, Rich can be heard with Trio East. This pianoless trio’s recording Stop-Start has been reviewed extensively in the United States and Germany and is featured on iTunes music as well as in CD format. The Trio has been performing in New York City and has been written up in the NYC newspaper All About Jazz on several occasions in the spring and summer of 2005. Rich’s most recent trio release titled Generations was released May of 2012 by Origin Records in Seattle, Wa..


Rich has written four drum set books which include Drum Set Solos Vol. I (Kendor Music), Modern Jazz Solos for Drum Set (Kendor Music), Billy Hart’s Jazz Drumming (Advance Music), and How to Play Drums in a Big Band(Advance Music). All four books are widely used by students and teachers, and his drum set transcriptions have been featured in Down Beat magazine.


Rich has given master classes and concerts at numerous colleges in the U.S., France, Denmark, Thailand, Japan, and Newfoundland. He has taught jazz at the Eastman School of Music Summer Jazz Workshop for 20 years, and was featured for sixteen years as an artist in residence at the Birch Creek Music Center in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. At Birch Creek he has been spotlighted on two CD’s and received the Woody Herman Jazz Award for inspirational teaching. During their 2011 summer jazz session, Rich was featured as a guest conductor at PAI (Pennsylvania Arts Institute) at the Wyoming Music Seminary in Wilksbarre, Pa.. For the past 18 years, Rich has served as the chairperson for drum set solo selection for the New York State NYSSMA Manual.

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