John H. Beck (b. 1933) has been a member of the Eastman School of Music faculty since 1959. He received his bachelor’s degree (1955) and master’s degree (1962), as well as Performer’s Certificate, from Eastman. He retired from Eastman in 2008 and continues as Professor Emeritus of Percussion and teaches a class in The History of Percussion. Beck’s career as a performer and teacher includes posts as percussionist, timpanist, marimba soloist with the United States Marine Band (1955-59); principal percussionist with the Rochester Philharmonic (1959-62); and timpanist for the Rochester Philharmonic (1962-2002).
He has made numerous solo appearances worldwide and as a conductor has appeared with the Eastman Percussion Ensemble (1962-2008); in a tour of South America with the Aeolian Consort as percussion soloist (1977); and has participated in numerous guest conducting and percussion clinics in the United States and Europe.
Articles by Beck have been published in Music Journal, The Instrumentalist, Woodwind World, Brass and Percussion, and Percussive Notes; he was also percussion columnist for the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI) Journal (1965-72). He has also contributed articles to the Grove Dictionary of American Music and the World Book Encyclopedia. Carl Fischer, Boston Music, Kendor Music, Meredith Music, MCA, Wimbledon Music, Inc., Studio 4 Productions, and CPP Belwin have published his compositions. His Encyclopedia of Percussion is in its second edition and is published by Routledge.
Among the honors Beck has received include being named the Mu Phi Epsilon Musician of the Year (1976); the Monroe County School Music Association Award (1996); Eastman’s Eisenhart Award for Excellence in Teaching (1997); and the Arts and Cultural Council of Greater Rochester Award for contributions to the arts (1999); and the Edwin Peck Curtis Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching (2002).
In 1999 Beck was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame and that same society presented him with an Outstanding Service Award in 2002. The Commission Project presented him with the JD Award for outstanding service to music education in 2004. Since retirement in 2008, he has been awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the New York State School Music Association (2009), The President’s Award from Rowan University (2010), the Lifetime Achievement Award from KOSA International Percussion (2010) and the Life Time Achievement Award from Giornate della Percussione, Fermo, Italy (2010).
His book PERCUSSION MATTERS: Life at the Eastman School of Music was published in 2011 by Meliora Press and the John Beck Composition Prize has been established by Percussion Rochester, a biennial percussion festival.