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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

Magical Possibilities in Connection

Many years ago, the phrase was written in his book Dog Light, "It is a silent afternoon, blue smoke curling lazily in branches of yellow light when the conga explodes." Today the thought may read, "I may appear to you in myriad forms, depending on your point of view." Creator Will Clipman has been known as an artist, mask-maker, storyteller, poet, composer, musician, and teacher for many years since taking up residency in Tucson, Arizona. It all depends on who you ask, yet one thing is for sure: Will is one of Arizona's most well-known and proficient Renaissance men.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Will moved with his family to Harrisburg when he was ten years old, where he attended junior high and high school. His father was a semi-professional drummer before setting his music career aside to attend law school. However, “the beat must go on,” dad’s drum set became Will’s first instrument at the age of three, with his dad as an early mentor. Will’s mother, a teacher, knew her way around the piano keyboard, and it wasn't long before her piano became Will's second "percussion" instrument of choice. The family talent didn’t end there; Will's grandmother an amateur poet and songwriter, inspired Will to try composing verses at the age of six. The entire puzzle came together under the tutelage of his grandfather, a teacher, principal, and superintendent of schools who encouraged Will to start reading before he entered the first grade, inspiring his parallel career as an educator later in life.

Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, was Will's destination for his undergraduate studies, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing and magazine journalism. His time at Syracuse would also include a six-month semester abroad living in London, England; this experience formed the foundation for an interest in world literature, folklore, mythology, music, and mask art. At twenty-three, Will moved to Tucson, Arizona, to attend the University of Arizona, completing his Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry. Forty-five years later, Will still calls the ‘Old Pueblo’ home.

"Accomplishments, degrees, publications, recordings, awards, and so forth are just the milestones of one's progress along the path. If I've left behind more joy than the sorrow at the end of the journey, I'll take that."

Traveling his educational path, Will studied West African music with Cornelius Kweku Ganyo (Ghana) and Abdulai Aziz Ahmed (Guinea) while accompanying their classes and performing with their drum-and-dance ensembles. Will also performs and records with Native American flute master R. Carlos Nakai; the collaboration has traveled far over thirty years. Will has long been regarded as the house percussionist for Canyon Records, the world’s foremost Native American music label based in Tempe, Arizona. His affiliation with Canyon Records has provided numerous opportunities to collaborate with renowned Native American artists. To date, Will has recorded over seventy albums, thirty-six on the Canyon label. The big news from Canyon Records is the reunion of “The Wilde Boys”; R. Carlos Nakai, William Eaton, and Will Clipman, for the release of their long-awaited new CD Spiral Rendezvous.

Will's musical career has drawn attention both nationally and internationally. The recognitions include seven GRAMMY® Nominations, including one for his solo world music album Pathfinder. He is a three-time Native American Music Award Winner, a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award Winner, a New Age Reporter Music Award winner, a Zone Music Reporter Award Winner, and a two-time TAMMIE Award Winner. Will is beloved in his hometown. He is honored by being inducted into the Tucson Musicians Museum for his contributions to the musical community.

Will's attitude of gratitude and a willingness to share with others allows him to remain open to opportunities, whether in his neighborhood or on the other side of the world. According to Will, “The opportunities are endless when one is connected and in communication with life.” Will shares with us, "Accomplishments, degrees, publications, recordings, awards, and so forth are just the milestones of one's progress along the path. If I've left behind more joy than the sorrow at the end of the journey, I'll take that."

Will's musical collaboration with award-winning flutist, composer, performer, and Phoenix resident Sherry Finzer is one of his latest creative adventures. Their duo CD The Space Between Breaths, Will's work with Sherry, and multi-instrumentalist Cass Anawaty in Evenfall are produced and distributed by Heart Dance Records.

Regarding The Space Between Breaths, Will states, "It merges multi-flutes with pan-global percussion to evoke ten elemental trance grove incantations. The combination creates a sensuously soothing soundscape perfect for yoga, meditation, creative movement, massage, or simply the pleasure of listening deeply to exquisite music." Will also performs and records with the Heart Dance Records ensemble Trialogue, a collaboration with Sherry Finzer and guitarist Darin Mahoney. There is always much ado about something in the creative realm inhabited by Will Clipman and his numerous artistic associates. He invites you to connect with his world of artist, storyteller, poet, composer, musician and teacher from his website.


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