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Percussionists playing frame drums


Silk Road Ensemble Instruments
Silk Road Ensemble musicians play a variety of instruments from around the world, some of them as simple as these drums. Some have origins in a single region; the development of others over time illustrates the interactions among cultures along the historical Silk Road.

Shane Shanahan


"Improvisation is a beautiful way to connect with other people, without the need for a shared spoken language. Freeing yourself from the music that's written on the page also allows you to more fully express yourself."


Shane Shanahan

Percussion, composer (United States) Shane Shanahan has cultivated his own unique and highly sought-after sound by combining his studies of drumming traditions from around the world with his background in jazz, rock and Western art music. His interest in other cultures has lead to extended visits to Turkey, India, and Tajikistan, among other countries.

Shanahan’s rare set of diverse skills is what attracted Yo-Yo Ma when he was forming the Silk Road Ensemble. In the summer of 2000, Shane was invited to Tanglewood where he played an important role in the formation of the group. Ever since, he has been touring around the globe performing side-by-side with Ma as an original member of the award-winning Silk Road Ensemble.

Shanahan's playing can be heard on the Silk Road Ensemble's albums When Strangers Meet, Beyond the Horizon, New Impossibilities and Off the Map. Beyond the Horizon and New Impossibilities feature his arranging skills, as well. These arrangements have brought ecstatic audiences to their feet in the top concert halls of North America, Europe and Asia. Shanahan can also be heard on Ma's holiday release Songs of Joy.

Shanahan is also a member of the Glen Velez Frame Drum Ensemble and cellist Maya Beiser's Provenance project. He has performed and/or recorded with Philip Glass, Alison Krause, Sonny Fortune, Fantasia,

Chaka Khan, G. E. Smith, Simon Shaheen, Jamey Haddad, Cyro Baptista, Anindo Chaterjee, Sandeep Das, Shahram and Hafez Nazeri, Alim Qasimov, Howard Levy and Steve Gorn, among others.

Shanahan has been seen and heard on TV and radio throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, including appearances on David Letterman, Good Morning America, the National Geographic Channel, NPR, PBS, NHK, and the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics in Shanghai.

Shanahan has presented workshops and clinics in many of the world's top universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, New York University, UC Santa Barbara and the Rhode Island School of Design. He has also performed and created outreach programs for many world-class museums, such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Museums of Japan in Kyushu and Nara, the British Library in London, the Rietberg Museum in Zurich and the Ruben Museum of Art in New York.

In the spring of 2000, Shanahan was the director of the percussion department at the Hartt School, University of Hartford. In the fall of 2006, he was a Guest Artist in Residence at the Hartt School, focusing on multicultural hand drumming. This residency culminated in a student concert consisting entirely of Shanahan’s compositions and arrangements. He has also taught at the Amherst Early Music Festival and as one of Lincoln Center's Meet the Artist performers. He received his Bachelor's degree and performer's certificate from the Eastman School of Music and his Master's degree from the Hartt School.

Shane is Lead Teaching Artist for the Silk Road Project's arts-integrated education initiative, Silk Road Connect. He has also presented multiple programs for the Turnaround Arts initiative through the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.