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Collin Walcott

Died: November 8, 1984

Collin was born in New York City and came to Yale from Putney. Freshman year he lived alone in McClellan. He studied at the Yale School of Music, majored in percussion at Indiana University and later studied ethnomusicology at the University of California at Los Angeles. He also studied sitar with Ravi Shankar and tabla with Alla Rakha. As a classical percussionist, he performed with the Toronto, Detroit, and Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestras. After playing with the Paul Winter Consort, in the late 60s, he co-founded the quartet Oregon with Ralph Towner, Paul McCandless, and Glen Moore. They made 14 albums.

Colin worked closely with Ravi Shankar and co-founded the group Codona with the trumpet player Don Cherry and the percussionist Nana Vasconcelos. He also co-produced three records with the performance artist Meredith Monk. In 1981 he performed at the Woodstock Jazz Festival, held in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Creative Music Studio. His biography on Wikipedia lists all the records he performed on including with Miles Davis, Richie Havens, U2 and many others.

Collin’s widow, Lanny Harrison is a character actress, dancer and cabaret artist who teaches a theater course at New York University integrating Eastern contemplative disciplines and Western theatrical technique. She wrote about him: “Collin was as close to an angel as any of us who walk this earth. He was graced with humor and brilliance. As a musician, he was daring and creative — on his own, as well as with the bands Oregon and Codona. He was a loving husband, brother, father — he used to practice tabla with our daughter Hannah Pearl cradled tween his legs. In one of our theater duets, Collin thought nothing of donning any number of costumes — transforming into a hilarious Chasidic traveler, playing sanza, with long payos and yamaka; wearing a giant bass drum around his neck, he played a thunderous solo while occasionally speaking in a Swedish accent….

He loved to garden, drive down unmarked country roads, lift the glass and toast folks with his beloved teacher Ala Rakha, have parties and dance with dear friends while wearing wigs and ridiculous hats. In Collin’s classes at Naropa University, he had his students all stand in a circle and learn rhythms by stamping their feet and singing out syllables. Collin questioned and meditated. He filled notebooks with musings and lyrics and music.”

Collin was killed November 8, 1984 in an automobile accident in East Germany during a 1984 Oregon concert tour. He was survived by his widow, Lanny Harrison, and his daughter Hannah Pearl Walcott who became a collage and performing artist.