Robert Weiss is a drummer/percussionist and gifted musician who has been performing professionally for the last 25+ years. He was born in Santa Clara, CA., grew up in Los Angeles and has been living in New York since 1998. His interest in music and performing came naturally and took on a life of it's own at a very young age as he began listening over and over again to pop record 45 singles given to him by his father and imitating voices and characters he saw on televison. At 6 or 7 years old, he was given his wish of a gift of bongos, along with claves and maracas and sang along with his records while trying to accompany himself with these instruments. At age 9, he began learning and playing trumpet in elementary school band, progressing and eventually performing with the all-district band. Starting in junior high, Robert took private drumset lessons with Kay Carlson, a firmly established and recognized teacher who taught at Amendola Music in Inglewood, CA for over 30 years and was also the percussion instructor at Loyola Marymount University.
During his high school years in Culver City, Robert studied weekly with Kay, jammed with other budding musicians and played in a rock band, Interceptor, that won the school Battle of the Bands contest in 1984! and had a few notable performances. Robert played in the school stage band and recorded songs on each of their two albums, played drums every year in the spring musical with the pit orchestra, was in marching bands, attended drum clinics and big arena concerts in Los Angeles, and got his first real life gig experience rehearsing and playing on weekends with the Esquires, a semi-pro big band made up of some students and adult musicians as well, that performed swing era classics for dancers in hotels, Elks's Lodges etc. all over the Greater Los Angeles area.
Robert attended the University of California at San Diego where he earned a BA in Communication with Minors in Music Performance & General Science with honors in 1990. At UCSD & in San Diego, his musical horizons expanded through involvement in the music department and by attending shows and concerts of many legendary jazz artists who would tour through San Diego and other great musicians who were living in San Diego. During this time, Robert listened to and learned from recordings, went to jam sessions and gained performance experience in small group and big band jazz, gaining greater experience with the music of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Thad Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Sonny Rollins and more, classical new music ensembles, percussion ensembles, funk, blues and R & B, Brasilian and Afro-Cuban music both in school and by performing professionally with groups in town. He performed with Kevin Flournoy, Susannah Martin, Joey Carano, Rob Thorsen, Tony Ortega, Daniel Jackson, Holly Hoffman, the Swingin' EZ Big Band, Vilaya's Magic, Kenny Beaumont, Jr., Eric Keeling and many others. This was an important and fruitful time in his musical development and made him aware that he wanted to pursue music full time. In 1989, Robert performed with the UCSD Jazz Ensemble when they opened for the Miles Davis Group in a benefit concert on campus at the Mandeville Auditorium and that same year, with the ensemble at the IAJE in San Diego. He studied timpani with Jean-Charles Francois, professor of percussion, for a short time and Professor Jimmy Cheatham at UCSD was an encouraging and supportive mentor figure who made it possible for Robert to receive a generous scholarship from the Lower So. Calif. Jazz Society.
After working professionally with various music groups in San Diego during college and a few years beyond, Robert moved back to Los Angeles, then shortly thereafter joined a piano trio with Lisa Miller and Steve Smith to perform nightly for the next year and a half for dancers and listeners aboard the cruise ships of Costa Riviera, Holland America and Princess Cruises, traveling in Alaska, to Hawaii, down the west coast of the U.S. & Mexico, throughout the Caribbean and parts of South America. The trio, known as "Maiden Voyage", also produced a recording of original music written by the pianist and bassist.
Returning to Los Angeles, Robert eventually became active in the jazz scene there, performing with various artists and as a member of the Cecilia Coleman Quintet (with Steve Huffsteder, Gerry Pinter and Christoph Luty) which performed in local jazz festivals and in clubs including the Jazz Bakery, Club Brasserie, Steamer's, Jazz at Pearls in San Francisco. The group was a finalist in Grover Washington Jr.'s Hennessey Jazz Search, earning the honor to perform at the contest finals at the Life Club in NYC in 1997, broadcast live on WBGO 88.1. Also during this time in L.A., Robert worked regularly with vocalist Gina Eckstine, Sandra Booker, pianists Jon Mayer, Paul Astin, and Chris Dawson, guitarists Chuck Jennings, Larry Koonse, and John Ehlis, bassists Danton Boller, Bob Maize, Henry Franklin, Putter Smith, Jeff Littleton, Zoltan Dekany and Darek Oles, saxophonists Jon Whinnery, Ben Clatworthy and David Sills, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos in San Diego, an organ trio with Joe Bagg & Steve Cotter and others as well. Robert got to perform with legends Bill Perkins (at the Lighthouse), Red Holloway, and Ron Eschete. Robert was fortunate prior to and during this time to have had the opportunity to take a lesson with incredible drummers Joe LaBarbera and Michael Carvin, several with the great Jeff Hamilton, and also regularly attended drum workshops at the World Stage led by the wonderful Billy Higgins, who was a big influence. Instruction & advice from these musicians and interaction with others was very important in helping Robert gain the skills, inspiration and some of the knowledge necessary to begin his journey of making contributions to various groups, gain working experience and be a part of many performances throughout the west coast. In 1998, Robert fulfilled a long-time desire by moving to New York City.
Since living in NY, Robert has enjoyed numerous playing opportunities in various music genres, and done some touring and recording. Highlights include performing at the Texaco Jazz Festival, the Hartford International Jazz Festival, the 55 bar, Joe's Pub, BAM cafe Live, Birdland Jazz Club, St. Peter's Church, on air on the NBC show, "Today in New York", on NY1 News, live on air on WFUV FM from Bennett Studios, as well as appearing at many other music venues, restaurants and private functions in New York. Abroad, he has performed at the Reignwood Theatre in Beijing, China and at Bazbar in St. Barth. Some of the musicians he has been able to perform with in NY, in additon to those on recorded samples include Bill Crow, Lincoln Goines, Kenny Davis, John Tchicai, Perry Robinson, John Ehlis, Eri Yamamoto Trio, Earl Rose, Paul Beaudry, Arthur Kell, the Jon Menges Quartet, Michael Kanan, Charles Sibirsky, Iris Ornig, Christiana Drapkin, Enrique Haneine, Cecilia Coleman, Tim Givens, Yoshiki Miura, Lena Bloch, Nick Demopoulis, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the bands Dave's True Story, Hazmat Modine, Lipbone Redding, Maura Fogarty, Libby Johnson, Milton and many more. He has recorded music for television written by Earl Rose, most notably, "The Presidents" on the History Channel, "American Masters: Johnny Carson, King of Late Night" on PBS, and for Turner Classic Movies. In addition, Robert was a teaching artist of music from 2002 to 2006, having taught either recorder, general music or band to elementary level students in fourteen different schools in the NYC public school system. He currently teaches privately and does master classes and performances at William Alexander Middle School in Brooklyn.