The drum community suffered an immense loss this past May 1, when teacher, mentor, and percussion ambassador Chuck “Palito” Silverman passed away at age sixty-two.
Internationally renowned as a specialist in applying Afro-Caribbean rhythms to the drumset, Silverman brought over forty years of drumming experience to
MD’s Education Team and the students of Musicians Institute. Not only was he an avid writer and frequent MD columnist, but his three-part Practical Applications book series was also included in Modern Drummer’s 1993 list of the greatest educational drum books of all time. Chuck had an immense passion for education, and his towering presence and charming sense of humor made you want to hang out, learn from him, and chat for hours.
In high school, Silverman excelled at the art of drumming, receiving many top honors in solo and marching competitions. Upon graduation, he attended the University of Miami. Soon thereafter, he transferred to Miami Dade College, which led to his first experiments in Afro-Caribbean rhythms. It wasn’t long before Silverman began working with many of Miami’s top bands and started gigging on the cruise-ship circuit. During those treks from the port of Miami to the Caribbean, he continued to explore ways to implement island rhythms alongside an R&B and funk vocabulary.
In 1976, Silverman relocated to Los Angeles and began working with top Latin artists, including Celia Cruz, Armando Manzanero, Poncho Sanchez, and Julio Iglesias. He then discovered that he enjoyed teaching as much as performing, and in the late ’80s he began his tenure at Musicians Institute and wrote the book series Practical Applications: Afro-Caribbean Rhythms for the Drum Set.
By the early ’90s, Silverman had become well known for his energetic clinics, informative instructional articles, and entertaining videos. In each capacity, he was seemingly able to connect Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms with the funk of James Brown and the R&B drumming of Bernard Purdie.
In his fifties, Silverman authored more books and chose to teach at MI in a more serious capacity. He inspired his students with his seemingly endless energy, and he was always coming up with new ways of applying world music on the drumset. He would lend out his books for study, make mix tapes and CDs of world music, and follow up with a personal phone call or email to make sure that each student was practicing and progressing. If a student was doing well and showed a lot of promise, Chuck would personally contact stick, cymbal, and drum companies to help jump-start that drummer’s career.
Silverman was charming, animated, and often unknowingly hilarious. But within his complex personality, he championed the importance of reading and developing a relaxed, purposeful playing style, and he made sure each student executed Afro-Caribbean rhythms correctly. Whether he was on stage at PASIC, in a private lesson room, or teaching online, he had a unique way of breaking down complex Latin patterns to make them look stress free and simple. At any time within his teachings, Silverman would spontaneously break into song or dance. He lived by example, exuding both joy and carefree bliss, and he wanted to share the human element of music with anyone who would listen. Chuck encouraged students to attend his yearly study programs in Cuba, which sought to explore the connection between drumming and religion.
Silverman finished his final book, Drum Technique 3, on April 30, 2014—one day before he passed.
Silverman had his hand in many other books and educational products, including The Funkmasters: The Great James Brown Rhythm Sections (1997), Changuito: A Master’s Approach to the Timbales (1998), Power Grooves: Dave Lombardo (1999), Practical Playalongs (2000), Afro-Caribbean Drum Grooves (2002), The Latin Funk Connection (2009), Basic Hand Technique as Taught to Chuck Silverman by Richard Wilson and Murray Spivack (2011), and The Latin Rudiments (2013).