About Jim

Jim Santi Owen

Jim Santi Owen is an American percussionist, educator, producer, composer and performer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Drumming since the age of eight, Owen began an intensive training in the North Indian percussion instrument, tabla, in 1991, studying under Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri at the Ali Akbar College of Music, at the California Institute of the Arts, and in India. In 1995, Owen began studying South Indian percussion instruments including mridangam, ghatam, kanjira and morsing with master percussionist T.H. Subash Chandran, along with tavil taught by K. Sekar. At Cal Arts, Owen studied Jazz with Charlie Haden, James Newton, and Tootie Heath in addition to African drumming and dance from the Ladzekpo Brothers. He also studies the art of accompaniment for the traditional Indian dance known as Kathak under master 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.

Since 2009, Jim Santi Owen has served as the Music Director for the San Francisco World Music Festival and the Director of the Festival’s Youth World Music Orchestra. In this capacity he has collaborated with artists ranging from epic storytelling shamans from Kyrgyzstan, to Native American tribal elders, to Tibetan Buddhist yoginis, to Korean opera artists, to Chinese Nanguan masters. Owen works year-round with San Francisco World Music Festival researching and studying traditional music from around the world and facilitating inter-cultural musical collaborations between master musicians and their students from around the world.

Jim Santi Owen performs extensively with accomplished musicians from a myriad of cultural and musical backgrounds. Owen has performed with his gurus, Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, Subash Chandran, and K.Sekar both in India and America. Other internationally renowned artists with whom Owen has performed include: Jazz legend Pharoah Sanders, Nubian musician Hamza el Din, guitar innovator Stanley Jordan, Kathak dance master Pandit Chitresh Das, sarode master Alam Khan, Uzbeki percussionist Abbos Kosimov, Azeri kammancha master Imamyar Hasanov, sitar maestro Kartik Seshadri, renowned Persian vocalist Sharam Nazeri, drumset virtuoso Steve Smith, 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, didgeridoo master Stephen Kent, devotional singer Jai Uttal, avant-garde pianist Myra Melford, Italian percussionist Alessandra Belloni, Tibetan artist Techung, Gamelan Sekar Jaya, Burmese pot-waing player Kyaw Kyaw Naing, Rova Saxophone Quartet, Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and bansuri flute exponent Steve Gorn. Owen 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 (AIIS), which enabled him to spend two and a half years living in India conducting research on percussion ensembles in India. During this time, Owen was based alternately in Kolkata and Chennai, and he traveled extensively in India to document drumming traditions in Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and West Bengal. In addition to the A.I.I.S. fellowship, Owen has been awarded two grants from the Zellerbach Family Fund, an Isadora Duncun Award, and a Black Box Award from the SF Weekly.

The San Francisco dance community embraces Owen as an award winning composer and performer. Owen has worked with numerous dancers and choreographers, including Pandit Chitresh Das, Alonzo King, Kim Epifano, Yannis Adoniou, Keith Hennessey, and K.J. Holmes. He has studied and taught Contact Improvisation and other body-based improvisational forms. From 1994 through 1998, Owen collaborated with dancer/musician Jules Beckman on an evolving form of dance, voice, and bucket drumming called Percussion Theater, which he continues to teach. Owen is currently on faculty with Dominican University, the San Francisco Dance Conservatory, LINES Ballet School, LINES Pre-Professional Program, and the 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 taught master classes for around the world for arts educators, psychologists, and social workers in Hong Kong, Beijing, Barcelona, and Madrid. Owen was a featured clinician at the 2002 AOSA (American Orff-Schulwerk Association) National Conference and the 2000 NCOSA (Northern California Orff-Schulwerk Association) mini-conference. He has been a guest clinician as an art specialist for youth, a director of a K-8 music program 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 twice 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. He is currently on faculty at The Ali Akbar College of Music, The Jazz School, and Dominican University while maintaining a full schedule of teaching privately.

Owen co-directs the award-winning 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.