Dr. Rolf Groesbeck, Associate Professor of Music History and director of the Indian Percussion Ensemble at UALR, is active as an ethnomusicologist and performer (piano, synthesizer, the South Indian drum chenda, other percussion from Asia and the Middle East). His research has been mostly on the temple drumming of Kerala (India), where he conducted fieldwork between 1988 and 1990, in 2000 and in 2006, receiving a grant from the American Institute of Indian Studies. He has published articles in the journals Ethnomusicology (1999, on improvisation); Yearbook for Traditional Music (2003, on timbre); Asian Music (1999, on the classical/folk dichotomy); the Indian journal Kalasamskaram; New England Musician; and a lengthy, critically acclaimed encyclopedia entry in the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. His chapter “I Learned by Hearing, I Learned By Seeing”, based on a paper he gave at an International Council for Traditional Music colloquium at Harvard U. in 2004, is forthcoming in the book Theorizing the Local (R. Wolf, ed., Oxford U. press). He has also presented papers at meetings of the Society for Ethnomusicology (national and regional) and the South Asia Conference (Madison, Wisconsin), and has given an acclaimed paper on Robert Palmer’s contributions to American music at UALR’s 2003 Arkansongs festival, and at a meeting of the College Music Society. He has also published reviews in Ethnomusicology, Asian Music, World of Music (forthcoming) and Yearbook for Traditional Music (forthcoming); served as a key consultant for T. Viswanathan’s and Matthew Allen’s book Music in South India; written several study guides for the Little Rock radio program Classical Arkansas and posted them on that program’s web site; and served the Southeast-Caribbean Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology as President (2000-01), Program Committee Chair (2000), and member of the Advisory Board (2001-present). His 1995 Ph.D. dissertation (New York U.) is one of the monuments of the scholarly literature on the music of Kerala. He also has BA and BM (Piano, Music History) degrees from Oberlin College.
In addition to his chenda performances throughout Kerala and in many venues in the US, he has performed Indian and Middle Eastern percussion in many places in Ireland with the singer-songwriter-dulcimerist Ricko Donovan; jazz piano at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, TN; percussion at the Afterthought in Little Rock (with the house jazz trio); and also with the Perfumed Garden Cafe Orchestra (Nashville Middle Eastern dance band–percussion and keyboard); Serenatta (Nashville Latin music ensemble); the Palindrome Dance Company (composer, keyboards, homemade percussion); Music for Homemade Instruments (composer, homemade percussion); Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians (keyboards); Gamelan Son of Lion (composer, Indonesian percussion); and the (New York) Downtown Ensemble (keyboards, percussion), among others. He also frequently performs chenda and keyboards at programs of the Arkansas Kerala Association and the Little Rock Friends of India. His accordion piece “Polka I” was released on a CRI CD in 1992 (Guy Klucevsek, Manhattan Cascade).
Professor Groesbeck previously taught at Vanderbilt, Brooklyn College, New York University, and the University of Virginia, among other institutions. At UALR he teaches courses in Western art music history, opera, American Music, Non-western Musics, and a non-major course in Fine Arts (team-taught with faculty in Art History and Theater/Dance), in addition to directing the UALR Indian Percussion Ensemble. He also has directed numerous master’s theses, private readings, and undergraduate research projects. In addition he chairs the departmental Core Assessment and Program Assessment committees and the college’s Assessment Team, and serves on the university’s Faculty Senate and Provost’s Assessment Advisory Group. He has also served on the Arkansas Kerala Association’s Cultural Committee, writes program notes for the university’s Artspree concert series, and acts as the Aeolus Recorder Consort’s liaison to the university. Professor Groesbeck’s biographies will appear in the 2006 and 2007 editions of Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education.