Robert Fernandez began playing bongos at age five, performing and recording music from his Cuban heritage. He is a percussionist in both traditional and cross-cultural music who has studied with many of the worlds masters. He received his B.F.A. and M.F.A degrees in percussion from the California Institute of the Arts and pursued Doctoral studies at USC. His principal teachers include, John Bergamo, Ken Watson, Pete Magadini, Kobla Ladzepko, Amiya Dasgupta, K.R.T. Wasitodipuro, Rolando Soto, Changuito, Ramon Marquez Dominguez and Pedro Orta.
He has been a featured artist in the Monday Evening Concerts series in Los Angeles, the Ojai Festival (with Lukas Foss), the L.A. Philharmonic New Music Group and from 1976-1980, the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival. With fellow percussionists Arthur Jarvinen and M.B. Gordy he co-founded the Antenna Repairmen in 1978. That group quickly established a reputation for innovative and virtuosic performance of works that combined percussion, poetry, and theater and recently released GHATAM, their first compact disc on M.A Recordings. This unique work features handmade ceramic instruments designed and built by sculptor Stephen Freedman.
Fernandez has worked closely with many leading composers, including Jacob Druckman, Morton Feldman, Charles Wuorinen, Mel Powell, Neville Mariner, Earle Brown, Pauline Oliveros, William Kraft, Lou Harrison, John Adams, Frank Zappa, Harvey Sollberger, and Donald Erb. He has toured with the Erik Hawkins Dance Company, the CalArts Twentieth Century Players, and was invited to perform at the America Dance Festival in 1980. He was a member of Daniel Lentz and Group, and from 1986 through 1989 was on the performance faculty of June In Buffalo. He has been a guest artist with the California EAR Unit on several occasions, including the American premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s music/theater work Musik im Bauch.
Fernandez’s musical expertise is not limited to contemporary art music. In the commercial and recording fields, Fernandez has worked with artists as diverse as Dionne Warwick, Tito Puente, Maureen McGovern,Bobby Shew, Sherry Lewis and Frank Zappa. ,Most recently he completed a 3-year world tour with Barry Manilow. He was a featured soloist on the soundtracks of the Fox television series’ Alien Nation and D.E.A., has performed on numerous feature films including Nightmare on Elm St.: Part II, Murder in Texas,Hell Raiser, Rapid Fire, Virtuosity, and Species, has done live appearances (musician) on Bay Watch, Dharma and Greg and has done commercials for Lexus, Microsoft, DHL, and Dupont, among others.He has worked extensively with many Cuban artists like Changüito, Cesar ” Pupy” Pedroso, Bobby Carcasses and Frank Emilio Flynn.
He has taught at the Dick Grove School of Music; CalArts and USC and is currently on the faculty at California State University Los Angeles, where he directs the percussion and Afro-Latin percussion ensembles, teaches Latin percussion and assists with the Afro-Latin music program. He has just finished a book on Afro-Cuban Folkloric Music titled: The Afro-Cuban Folkloric Musical Tradition- A Practical Guide for Percussionists.