Kenneth "Skip" Burton (right)

Kenneth "Skip" Burton

Kenneth "Skip" Burton has been drumming since he was seven or eight years old. He says, "I was drawn to the drums, and managed to find a man in the neighborhood who made some drums available to me. In about 1964, I came down to Germantown Avenue and discovered Ione Nash, who was teaching African dance with live drummers. I was real young and I came by and I watched and I stayed. Every day I would go in and I would just stand there. Eventually, I was invited to come in and sit among the drummers. I started with a bell, then I went to sticks and then I went on to the drums. I could play by hearing and by watching the patterns that they were playing - that is, if I saw it, I could play it. I would carry two drums a long distance every day to do this.

"My first mentor was Walter Mitchell, a man who passed away, a very fundamental drummer. He knew basics and he studied under older people, including Robert Crowder, Saka Acquaye, George Cannon, Sonny Morgan, Garvan Masseaux, Fats Williams Robinson, and others. As a result, I became acquainted with the music of these elders, and I also had the privilege to study and play with some of these same masters. Charles Minye Gay and Ron Facundo Harris were also important influences. Besides these Philadelphia artists who influenced me most, I was privileged to learn from master drummers from Ghana, Cuba, Haiti, and the Congo."

Over the last 30 years, Mr. Burton has evolved an African American aesthetic, playing for dance classes, theatre productions, traditional dance events, documentary projects, and recordings. He is well known for his association with the Ione Nash Dance Ensemble, where he has been the master drummer, establishing the Heritage Drummers. He also plays salsa and band music. He has taught, provided workshops and given demonstrations for all age groups in countless sites, largely on the East Coast, including the Lincoln Center in New York City, Temple's Annenberg Hall, and local colleges, high schools, and community groups. Mr. Burton performed in the Philadelphia Folklore Project's "Philly Dance Africa" programs in 1998 and 2000.