Percussionist Chris DeChiara, a native of Burlington, Massachusetts, came of age at an apex in rock music history, drawing inspiration from the kit-shattering performances of pioneers Neil Peart, John Bonham, and Bill Ward, among other greats. DeChiara honed his craft at an early age, recording and playing the club circuit around Boston and New England before channeling his lifelong love of music into academic and professional pursuits.
DeChiara studied percussion performance at the undergraduate and graduate levels under the tutelage of Will Hudgins (Boston Symphony Orchestra), Jeff Fischer (UMASS Lowell, Boston Ballet), and Fred Buda (ret. Boston Pops); he earned a Bachelor of Music in percussion performance (cum laude) from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 1996 and a Master of Music in performance with academic honors and distinction from New England Conservatory in 1999. As a student he widened his repertoire to incorporate theater, chamber, solo, studio, rock, jazz, drum corps, and classical performance. At Lowell he was a member and section leader of the drumline and a guest conductor/director with the university’s percussion ensemble; he also marched with the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps in 1994.
From 1996 to 1999, DeChiara performed nationally and internationally, participating in the Rome Festival Orchestra in Italy, the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, the Spoleto Music Festival in South Carolina, and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival in Germany. In 1999, he was the principal percussionist of the United World Philharmonic in Bonn, Germany. He has performed under the batons of acclaimed directors Sergiu Comissiona, Lawrence Foster, Keith Lockhart, Mstislav Rostropovich, Benjamin Zander, Julius Rudel, Stanisław Skrowaczewski, Christoph Eschenbach, and James Conlon.
Having joined the U.S. Navy Band in 2001, DeChiara has toured with the Concert Band as percussionist/timpanist and xylophone soloist. As a member of the Navy Band Ceremonial Unit—performing music at official military, government, full honor funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, and other special events—DeChiara has had the honor of accompanying the ensemble at three presidential inaugurations and the funeral of former president Ronald Reagan; he was also featured as a drumset soloist at the 2012 Virginia International Tattoo.
Over the course of his career, DeChiara has appeared with a number ensembles, including the Alexandria Symphony, Annapolis Symphony, Boston Ballet, Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Concert Artists of Baltimore, Washington Ballet and Opera Orchestra, Lake George Opera, Maryland Symphony, and the Rhode Island Philharmonic. He is currently principal timpanist/percussionist of the self-conducted Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra, principal timpanist of the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, and was principal percussionist of the Wammie-award-winning, Great Noise Ensemble, from 2005-2015.
DeChiara has had the distinction of playing some of the most well-known venues in the world, among them Symphony Hall and Fenway Park in Boston; Carnegie Hall in New York City; the Kennedy Center and Verizon Center in Washington, DC; and the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Netherlands. As a regular performer in the DC theater circuit, DeChiara has shared the stage with renowned artists—among them Broadway Tony award winner Jason Robert Brown, original RENT actor Adam Pascal, and NBC star Wesley Taylor.
Recordings featuring DeChiara include the 1999 American premiere of Kurt Weill’s opera, Die Burgschaft, on EMI Records; the premiere recording of Shirish Korde’s song cycle Drowned Woman of the Sky; performances with folk legend Arlo Guthrie; the debut release of Great Noise Ensemble’s Guerilla New Music; and debut albums by local singers Chris Sizemore and Carolyn Cole. His chamber music work has been featured in numerous live broadcasts on WGBH radio (Boston) with New England Conservatory faculty and members of the Boston Symphony.
Returning to his rock and roll roots at night, DeChiara mans the kit in several Washington, DC-area bands, among them Dr. FU, Iron Maiden tribute band Eyes of the Nile, and the notorious and uproarious hair-metal band from Hamburg, Germany—aptly named Herr Metal. Dr. FU is a veritable local legend, winning the WUSA*9 “A List” competition for “Best DC-Area Band” and featured in the Washington Post, Post Express, Washingtonian, On Tap magazine, Washington City Paper, Voice of the Hill, Washington Times, Buffalo News, and Loudoun Times-Mirror.
DeChiara also has vocal chops, singing with the acoustic Beatles group, Nowhere Men, and belting harmonies with Dr. FU. DeChiara’s rock performances span venues across the DC metropolitan area, including the legendary 9:30 Club, State Theater, Washington Nationals Park, RFK Stadium, FedEx Field, and outdoor festivals such as ShamrockFest, Friday Night Live, and Celebrate Fairfax. DeChiara has shared the stage with Third Eye Blind, Pat Benatar, Cheap Trick, 311, Dee Snider’s Widowmaker, Vicious Rumors, Larry Gatlin, Kongos, White Trash, Arlo Guthrie, Arturo Sandoval, Maynard Ferguson, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, and Steve Miller.
As a lifelong student of music himself, DeChiara conveys his passion for the arts by mentoring the next generation of musicians, teaching masterclasses, clinics, private lessons, percussion ensembles, drumlines, and front ensembles, and coaching orchestra and concert band percussion sections in schools in both Boston and the Washington metropolitan region. In addition to serving as front ensemble and drumline coach for several local marching bands and conducting university and secondary school-level percussion ensembles, DeChiara maintains a home studio in Burke, Virginia, where he teaches private lessons, records drum and percussion tracks for clients, produces drum and percussion videos, and tries mightily to abide by the parameters of county noise restrictions. His percussion-loving cat Maurice (a.k.a. Herr KatzenSchlagzeug), although not formally trained, is featured as a guest celebrity in several video recordings, and occasionally flashes his trademarked “devil horns” paw in rock solidarity.