Above Joel plays his percussion set-up for South Coast Repertory's productions of Peter and the Starcatcher and The Tempest; the solo percussion for California Shakespeare Theater's production of All's Well that Ends Well"; The percussion set-up for Paul Dresher's chamber-opera "The Tyrant"; The members of Kaila Flexer and Next Village/Third Ear.

Since the start of his career, Joel has been featured as an onstage performer for many dance and theater productions. He is most comfortable and engaged in these roles. He has cultivated a stage presence that captivates, but also focuses on the stage action. This includes productions by South Coast Repertory, Paul Dresher Ensemble, the Crucible, and the California Shakespeare Theater, and dance companies such as the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, Nancy Karp + Dancers, ODC/SF, dNaga, Teatro Visión, and the Allyson Green Dance Company. (See bio for more info.)

While Joel is comfortable playing classical percussion, drum set, or vibes, the unique role of playing acoustic marimba in bands is exempified in Joel's earlier work with Kaila Flexer and Third Ear and Jack West and Curvature. The instrumentation of these groups worked well with marimba. Third Ear featured Kaila Flexer on violin with a 2nd violin and bass and played Klezmer influenced folk, while Curvature featured Jack West on 8-string acoustic guitar with saxophone (or cello) and percussion. The warm sound of a marimba works well with these small acoustic ensembles. (Unfortunately Third Ear is no longer an active ensemble and Curvature eventually featured the Marimba Lumina to allow Joel to often cover Bass in his left hand and get funkier with a larger variety of sounds.)

Joel's playing is also informed by world music, including the study of Afro-Cuban and North Indian drumming, as well as steel pan.


Joel's percussion experience at Northern Illinois University included study with Rich Holly and Robert Chappell and participation in a variety of world music ensembles including gamelan and African ensembles. Joel studied tabla with Robert Chappell and steel pan with native Trinidadian Cliff Alexis and Al O'Connor.

At Mills College he focused on contemporary music with William Winant. He studied Afro-Cuban drumming with Ruben Alvarez in Chicago. As a teen Joel studied timpani and orchestral percussion with Tele Lesbines of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and drum set with John Ruka.

A couple of early influential experiences included attending the Ludwig "International Percussion Symposium" in 1982, and more significantly, the Birch Creek Music Academy summer Mallet Workshop with Gordon Stout, Leigh Howard Stevens, Brad Stirtz, James Dutton and Alan O'Connor in 1983.


Joel employs marimbas of various sizes: a 4-1/3 Octave Concert Grand Musser 250; small Ludwig 3-octave F-F or 4-octave Ludwige C-C.
Steel drum: Joel plays a high tenor D-pan made by Cliff Alexis.
Vibraphone: a 1976 model M55 Musser Pro-Vibe
Xylophone: a Deagan 870
Drum Set: 1968 model Sonor 4-piece
(Meinl Congas, LP bongos, tabla, udu, various frame drums.)