Award-winning local percussionist, teacher and school bus driver Clark Jamison’s busy life is propelled by rhythm; it’s balanced by silence and stillness.
“My inner journey is guided by Paramahansa Yogananda’s spiritual teachings,” he says. “My outward journey involves learning, teaching and performing various cultures’ traditional rhythms on hand drums and manifests in celebratory and sacred music.”
Born in Kansas City, and raised in Beloit, where his father owned his own pharmacy, Jamison spent much of his childhood reading in his room and listening to ’60s and classical music. One of his earliest memories was watching the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
“I imitated them by singing ‘Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!’ using my grandmother’s washboard as a guitar,” he says.
Jamison played percussion and drums in his elementary and high school bands, then played in a garage and reggae band while studying childhood education at Kansas University in the ’80s.
“The band’s guitarist (Ry Brown) was learning sitar. He became my musical mentor,” he says. “We shared a mutual interest in Indian culture, and I embarked on an exploration of Eastern musical and spiritual traditions.”
In 1983 Jamison studied North Indian classical music and tabla (a set of two drums played by hand) with Swapan Chaudhuri at the Ali Akbar College of Music, San Rafael, Calif. He returned to Lawrence, worked at local daycare centers, played drums in several rock bands and several East-West fusion ensembles, including “Whole Earth Consort.”
After earning a Bachelor of Arts in theater and film in 1989, Jamison worked as a video production assistant to support his musical and spiritual endeavors, then became a bus driver in 1993.
“I love driving the kids,” he says. “The hours are good, and it pays the bills.”
During the ’90s Jamison learned to play conga (Latin/Afro-Cuban,) djembe (West African) and doumbek (Middle East,) and worked with “Bongo Barry” Bernstein, a music therapist and pioneer of the drum circle movement. He played in Uncle Dirtytoes, a local Celtic folk-rock group, was part of the Gerald Trimble Ensemble; local world fusion folk group Lila; the KU African drum ensemble, won the Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championship’s miscellaneous acoustic instrument contest twice, and played on over 20 studio albums.
Currently he plays in the Indian music group Ras Mandala, the acoustic Beatles tribute band Vera, Chuck and Dave, and Fortnight. He’s played on nearly every Lawrence stage including the Lied Center, taught classes and workshops around Lawrence and Kansas City, but now mostly teaches at his home.
Jamison married Lawrence Sufi dancer and mandolin player Malika Lyon in 2006. They’ve visited India, meditate, participate in musical and spiritual events together, including “Sweat Your Prayers,” and play for the local Dances of Universal Peace.
“I enjoy learning about and sharing others cultures through rhythm, and I hope that thread helps connect people in mutual understanding and appreciation,” Jamison says.
“We’re really all one human family. I hope that mutual understanding leads to a more peaceful world. I believe what the world needs now is to come together to dance and sing as one.”