Innovative percussionist influences Brazilian music
John Arrucci. Photo courtesy of John Arrucci
Composer, performer, and educator John Arrucci has shared his music and knowledge with thousands of people worldwide.
A music professor at Princeton University in New Jersey, USA, for more than 23 years, Arrucci has traveled the world lecturing on and performing music in Brazil, Cuba, India, Nigeria, parts of Europe, and elsewhere. His knowledge of classical, jazz, North Indian, Afro-Cuban, and other styles of indigenous traditional music gives him a unique perspective on the creation of music and its profound impact on human culture.
Arrucci's work has been featured in more than 10 films. He recorded music for several television programs, including The Oprah Winfrey Show , and composed music for AT&T, Coca-Cola, Saab, Volvo, and Snapple. His work has also been commissioned by members of the New York Philharmonic and the Manhattan Marimba Quartet.
In 1997, Arrucci's composition "Metaphors" won second place in the jazz category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, an international competition with more than 30,000 entries.
Arrucci gained much of his broad knowledge of music by studying in other countries. After graduating from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, he was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from the Smithsonian Institution to study the tabla, an Indian percussion instrument, in Varanasi (Benares), Uttar Pradesh, India.
"Music truly is the international language," says Arrucci. "It's conversational. Every place I visit, I'm always embraced because of music."
As a 1983-84 Rotary Scholar, Arrucci studied the infectious rhythms of Bahian music at the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. During that time, he taught Afro-Cuban drumming and other forms of percussion to underprivileged children and adults.
Cited by the Tribune of Bahia as having "influenced the explosion of Bahian music," Arrucci has had an indelible mark on the music of Brazil. One of the country's biggest and most recognizable music stars, Carlinhos Brown, studied under him in Bahia.
"The most gratifying part of [my time in] Brazil was being able to share my energy and music knowledge with other people," says Arrucci. "Rotary's scholarship gave me an opportunity to affect and benefit people's lives as they did mine."
One of the draws of Rotary's scholarship program, he says, is the give and take of different cultures.
"I knew that the scholarship would combine an opportunity to study and become a goodwill ambassador. I was very comfortable with those two things," says Arrucci. "I'm a pretty outgoing person. So being a scholar was a perfect way to share my abilities and American culture with others."
Arrucci says his relationship with Rotary has intensified in the last year and a half, thanks to connections he has made with Rotarians and alumni on Facebook and LinkedIn.
When he talks to future and former scholars, Arrucci says, he stresses the importance of keeping Rotary a part of their lives after their scholarship is over.
"I don't see myself as a 1983-84 scholar but rather that I'm a lifetime scholar," he says. "Rotary really does love their Foundation alumni students. It's a great family to be a part of."
Written for Reconnections