Contact us to advertise on the podcast!

Contact us to advertise on the podcast!

#141 Rolando Morales- Matos-Percussionist for Broadway, Orchestras, Educator, Author and More!

#141 Rolando Morales- Matos-Percussionist for Broadway, Orchestras, Educator, Author and More!

Rolando Morales-Matos is a well sought after Latin, Jazz and Classical percussionist. He is a band leader/vibraphonist/composer of Latin Jazz group Rolando Morales-Matos & Forward. He has toured worldwide performing at the major jazz festivals and venues as a member of Ron Carter Foursight Quartet, as well as appearing with artists such as Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Samuels, Dave Valentine, Willie Colon, William Cepeda, to name a few. Rolando has recorded with Ron Carter, Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, Birdland Big Band, as well as numerous film soundtracks and classical works. In 2006, Rolando was the recipient of Drum Magazine's World Beat Percussionist of the Year Award. Since 1997, he has been the Percussionist and Assistant Conductor of the Tony Award- winning Broadway musical The Lion King. Rolando has developed unique vocabularies of playing melodies on non-pitched instruments such as drums, cowbells, cymbals and more. His published works include the textbook “Techniques and Basic Patterns for Congas, Timbales, and Bongos” and over 20 compositions for percussion ensemble. In 2008, Rolando released his solo album “From The Earth” featuring the Hang Drum, and most recently, his Latin Jazz group’s debut album “Forward”.

Also as an accomplished classical musician, Rolando frequently performs with The Philadelphia Orchestra. Previously, he was the Principle Percussionist of Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia in Spain, the Guest Principle Timpanist of New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and performed with Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony while he was busy touring worldwide with many salsa and popular artists from Latin America.


Rolando Morales-Matos is a faculty member at Curtis Institute of Music, Temple University, The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, New Jersey City University and gives clinics and master classes at many universities and conservatories. He has given clinics at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in 1999, 2001, and 2003.

Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Percussionist Rolando Morales-Matos began his musical studies at the prestigious high school for the performing arts, Escuela Libre de Música and started touring with popular artists at the age of 15. He moved to the States and received his Bachelor’s degree in Classical Percussion Performance from Carnegie Mellon University, Master’s degree from Duquesne University, and Certificate of Professional Studies from Temple University.

Gig alerts for this week…..

The Jazz Foundation of America is hosting their Loft Party, honoring the great Roy Haynes.

Marcos will be playing at Murphy’s Law in Bridgeport, CT on Friday the 13th with Karibe Mambo, as well as Stratford Day in Stratford, CT. Marcos will also be playing at the Ridgefield Tablao on the 12th, the Norwalk Tablao on the 26th and Fat Cat in NYC with the Powell Bros on the 25th at 9pm. Tues the 17th at Resorts World Casino with Mitch Frohman and the Bronx Horns. Lastly, Nantucket’s Cisco Brewers on the 21st and 22nd.

Damon will be playing the After Party at Rockwood Music Hall (stage 2) on Monday the 16th, Mount Snow with Jeff Tuohy for the Wine and Harvest Festival, The 23rd and 24th with Ken Freeman at Cisco Brewers on Nantucket, and the 29th at Rockwood Music Hall with April Kry (stage 1).

Iconic Recording #1 for this week……

Higher Love” by Steve Winwood featuring Carol Steele on percussion (along with other greats).

Iconic Recording #2 is….

Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson. Damon mentions how Sheila E plays the bottles on the demo (linked below) as well as the album cut.

In the video you can see Damon covers the cowbell part on his left foot, the bottle part on his left hand and the claps on the SPD pad with his right hand.

Music News for this week…..

New to Nashville? Here are 10 tips to making it in Music City (they also work for other cities as well). Vinyl Sales to Overtake CDs for the First Time Since 1986. Record Store in Seattle Finds Kurt Cobain Royalty Check From 25 Years Ago. CEO Jack Conte confirmed the news at a tech panel coordinated by Variety in Los Angeles. He says Patreon is considering new ways to provide capital funding and other financial services to artists. Other services on the table include health care and HR support. Jay-Z Wastes Little Time at the NFL — $400,000 Already Donated to Chicago At-Risk Youth Charities. Berry Gordy Donates $4 Million to the Motown Museum Expansion Project.

The music leading into the interview is from the Lion King. The Grasslands Chant and then The Lioness Hunt.

The interview starts with Rolando lighting his Padron Cigar from Nicaragua.

Carter's kit.jpeg

There are five different percussion players for the Lion King. Three are in the pit orchestra, one of which is (friend of the show) Carter McLean……

another is (friend of the show Valerie Naranjo).


Two of the percussion players are up in the box seats. Here are some images of what Rolando and Junior’s set up look like in the boxes………

Box set up.jpg

Not only is Rolando one of the percussionists, but he is also an assistant conductor of the show.

He talks about how the distance effects the music and timing.

The other percussionist at the NY Lion King is Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn. The connection Damon has to these percussionists and the percussionists of the London Lion King (like Thomas Dyani) is a percussionist named Ken Ross who made chekeres for all of them.

To play a broadway show, you have to become a member of the musicians union (NYC, Local 802). Once you are a member, there are all kinds of benefits you can receive.

Rolando mentions taking a leave of absence to write a book called “Techniques and Basic Patterns for Congas, Timbales, and Bongos”

Rolando talks about the importance of honing your skills to be thought of for a broadway job. being a great reader and having some orchestral experience as well as being well rounded are better suited for a wider array of gigs over being a specialist on one instrument.

Also, there are several articles available to read including this one, or this one or even this one. A fair amount suggest becoming a sub first. Rolando mentions you can go check out some shows and afterwards, try and talk to the musicians at the stage door. Have a great resume (or video reel) and above all, be a good person. Broadway Musicians is a good resource and sometimes posts auditions.

Playing to a conductor and a click are necessities. There are ways to practice playing with a metronome as a percussionist.

In addition to being a sub, knowing who the musical contractors are is also a way to “break into the scene”.


Rolando uses Pearl Percussion and Adams Instruments, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, Zildjian Cymbals, & Evans Drumheads.

You can follow Rolando on his Website, Facebook, or at the Lion King.

#142 Robby Ameen- Drummer for Ruben Blades Y Seis Del Solar, Dave Valentin, Jack Bruce & More!

#142 Robby Ameen- Drummer for Ruben Blades Y Seis Del Solar, Dave Valentin, Jack Bruce & More!

#140 Weedie Braimah- Djembeföla, Educator and More!

#140 Weedie Braimah- Djembeföla, Educator and More!