JIM SANTI OWEN is an American percussionist, teacher, and performer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Drumming since the age of eight, he has been studying tabla since 1991 from Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri at the Ali Akbar College of Music, at the California Institute of the Arts, and in India. Since 1995 he has been studying South Indian percussion instruments including mridangam, ghatam, kanjira and morsing from T.H. Subash Chandran and tavil from K. Sekar. At Cal Arts, Owen studied Jazz with Charlie Haden, James Newton, and Tootie Heath and African drumming and dance from the Ladzekpo Brothers. He also studies the art of accompaniment for the traditional Indian dance known as Kathak under one of its masters, Pandit Chitresh Das. Owen holds a Bachelor’s of Humanities from New College of California and a Master’s degree in World Music from California Institute of the Arts.
Owen has performed with his gurus, Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, Subash Chandran, and K.Sekar both in India and America. He has also performed with internationally renowned artists including: Jazz legend Pharoah Sanders, Nubian musician Hamza el Din, young sarodist Alam Khan, guitar innovator Stanley Jordan, sitar maestro, Kartik Seshadri, renowned Persian vocalist Sharam Nazeri, drumset virtuoso, Steve Smith, George Brooks’ Summit, minimalist composer Terry Riley, Jazz saxophonist Joseph Jarman (Art Ensemble of Chicago), Israeli oud player Yair Dalal, tabla virtuoso Bikram Ghosh, kanjira exponent Ganesh Kumar, devotional singer Jai Uttal, avant-garde pianist Myra Melford, Italian percussionist Alessandra Belloni, Gamelan Sekar Jaya, Burmese pot-waing player Kyaw Kyaw Naing, Rova Saxophone Quartet, Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and bansuri flute exponent Steve Gorn. He has appeared on numerous recordings in America and has recorded in India with ghatam maestro T.H. Vikku Vinayakram and kanjira wizard Selva Ganesh.
In 1999 Owen received a fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies to research percussion ensembles in India. He spent the better part of two and a half years living in India conducting this research. Although based alternately in Kolkata and Chennai, he traveled extensively in India documenting drumming traditions in Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and West Bengal. In addition to the A.I.I.S. fellowship, Owen has been the recipient of two grants from the Zellerbach Family Fund, an Isadora Duncun Award, and a Black Box Award from the SF Weekly.
Additionally, Owen has been involved in the San Francisco dance community as an award winning composer and performer. He has worked with numerous dancers, companies, and choreographers including San Francisco Ballet, Pandit Chitresh Das, Alonzo King, Kim Epifano, and K.J. Holmes. He has studied and taught Contact Improvisation and other body-based improvisational forms. From 1994 until 1998 Owen collaborated with dancer/musician Jules Beckman on an evolving form of dance, voice, and bucket drumming called Percussion Theater, which he still teaches. He is currently on faculty with The San Francisco Dance Conservatory, Lines Ballet School, and ODC Children’s Program where he teaches music, drumming, and performance to hundreds of young dancers.
As an educator Owen has extensive experience working with students ranging in age from pre-school to the post-graduate level and beyond. Trained and certified in an approach to children’s music and dance education known as Orff-Schulwerk, Owen has taught music to children in numerous schools throughout California. He has been a guest clinician at the American Orff Schulwerk Association’s national conferences and the Northern California Orff-Schulwerk Association’s mini-conference. In the Bay Area, he was the director of a K-8 music program at the Creative Arts Charter School in San Francisco and has taught at numerous Bay area schools including Synergy, San Francisco School, Park Day School, Marin Country Day School, and the Greenwood School. Jim has taught throughout the greater Los Angeles area as an arts specialist with P.S. Arts and a lead teacher with Cal Art’s Community Arts Partnership. At the university level, Owen has been a guest instructor with the Experimental Performance Institute of New College of California and has taught at Cornish University, California State University, Sacramento, and Cal Arts. Owen has thrice been a featured performer and clinician at the Seattle World Rhythm Festival, California State University Sacramento’s Day of Percussion, and the Percussion Arts Society’s Day of Percussion.
Owen co-directs the Indian percussion ensemble Tabla Rasa with whom he produced San Francisco’s first Festival of Sacred Drumming, Dance, and Song in 1998. He is available for lecture demonstrations on Indian percussion as well as workshops using bucket drums and body percussion to explore the integration and intersection of the various traditions that he has studied.
Owen is a student of Vajrayana Buddhist meditation teacher, Reggie Ray, and has been integrating Reggie’s unique “Body Work” practices into his somatic approach to teaching rhythm since his first retreat with Reggie in 2005. He is a co-director of Dharma Ocean San Francisco where he leads weekly meditation classes.
Owen is currently working as the Music Director of the San Francisco World Music Festival’s Youth Music Initiative bringing together over 50 kids from around the world to perform in an innovative youth world music ensemble. He is on faculty at the Ali Akbar College of Music, Dominican University, The Sangati Center, and Zambaleta World Music School and will be teaching at the Jazz School in Berkeley, CA starting in the Summer of 2010.