Alex Shaw is a Philadelphia-based percussionist, sound artist/composer, cultural producer, and arts educator specializing in Afro-Brazilian music traditions. He is the director of renowned Brazilian ensemble, Alô Brasil, and was a section leader in the award-winning Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra for over a decade in which he shared stages with tabla master Zakir Hussain, hip hop dance legend Rennie Harris, and kora virtuoso Yacouba Sissoko, among others. He has also trained as a member of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation since 1998, dedicated to preserving and cultivating this Afro-Brazilian martial art. Alex has worked as an accompanist for numerous local dance companies, colleges, and universities in the region, and has directed Brazilian drumming ensembles at numerous educational institutions, including University of the Arts, Temple University, Swarthmore College, California Institute of the Arts, and The Wharton School of UPenn. As an arts educator for numerous arts organizations over the past two decades, he has taught, facilitated, and performed at hundreds of schools and institutions throughout the mid-Atlantic region. He has been a founding board member and lead teaching artist for music education nonprofit LiveConnections (now World Cafe Live) since 2008, and joined the Young Audiences teaching artist roster in 2010, for which he has also worked as a creativity consultant and professional development facilitator.
Alex has produced dozens of public performances and cultural programs including Consciência Negra: The Legacy of Black Consciousness in Brazil, a 3-day symposium at Swarthmore College in 2016 that culminated with his original interdisciplinary production, The Mandinga Experiment, in homage to Capoeira Angola and its legacy of cultural resistance. He was Co-Director of Modupúe | Ibaye: The Philadelphia Yoruba Performance Project (2017-2019), and formerly the Artistic Director for Intercultural Journeys (2014-2020) for which he curated performance platforms for BIPOC artists, designed community dialogues, and led arts education initiatives to promote intercultural understanding and social consciousness through creative practice. He is currently a faculty member at University of the Arts. Intercultural, interdisciplinary collaborations and compositions merging diverse percussion traditions, vocal textures, field recordings, and digital imagination encompass his current artistic focus. Alex has received several competitive artist grants and an Emerging Legacy Award at the UPenn MLK Commemorative Symposium for Social Justice. Some of his teachers include Giba Conceição, Bernardo Aguiar, Gabriel Policarpo, Mario Pam, Eduardo Santos, Randy Gloss, Nani Agbeli, Kahlil Cummings, Mestre Cobra Mansa, Mestre Valmir Damasceno, and Mestre Kamau Blakney. He holds a BA from Swarthmore College and an MFA in World Percussion from the California Institute of the Arts.