Remembering Tom Harvey 

click to enlarge Taken from Tom's Facebook page.
  • Taken from Tom's Facebook page.

Thomas Harvey died in a motorcycle accident on Oct. 19, 2015, in Indianapolis.

Tom Harvey embraced everything as larger than life. His multi-faceted career as a percussionist gained for us a wider appreciation of music across multiple genres as we followed him from event to event. Tom was at home with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, on multiple stages with Broadway touring groups —stepping in when percussion sections needed an extra player; he was a regular with a disparate range of small groups including the intimate Orkestra Projekt (music—touch it, feel it), the New Sousa Band, PolkaBoy and IndyKlez. Tom appeared as a guest player with the University of Indianapolis series, Ronen Chamber Ensemble and for memorable premieres throughout Indianapolis.

Butler Professor Michael Schelle recalls, “There are many, many memories; I've been close to Tom for over 30 years, and some of our earliest collaborations bonded us forever - we still talked (and laughed) about things from 'the old days' every time we hung out.

“Tom was the percussionist in the first incarnation (1980s) of my Composers Orchestra, he was the percussionist I wanted for the premiere run (8 performances) of my opera, The Great Soap Opera in (I believe) 1988 — so many memories JUST from that collaboration over many months.

“He was percussionist for so many of my local performances of my chamber pieces over the years, including the early 1990 performance of my HOWL (1986), at Clowes Hall WITH Allen Ginsberg on stage with us reading the excerpts — wow.”

Retired ISO percussionist and Butler faculty member Paul Berns, speaking via phone from Steamboat Springs, Colo., recalled poignant memories from his longtime association with Tom Harvey. “He was my first percussion student when I joined the Butler faculty. Tom was just changing from being a piano major to percussion. I think of Tom as a triple threat. He was a fabulous percussionist, a fabulous pianist, a fabulous stagehand. He might have developed these multiple interests and abilities as a student at Arsenal Technical High School.”

Tom Harvey was a member of IATSE Local 30 Musicians Union and AFM Local 3 Stagehands Union with credentials as a sound, video and lighting technician. He served as technical director at Carmel High School Performing Arts Department and currently was the in-house lighting technician for Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

Paul Berns recalled Tom as a Butler student player not only delivering the percussion movement but also preparing the piano for John Cage’s Amores “and then playing it brilliantly.”

Berns, in the mid-1980s, had a band that would gig on weekends. “Tom was a ‘roadie’ with my band. He’d do the setup where the band was playing and would play drums until I could show up after playing at the ISO.”

After graduating in 1984 with a BA in Music from Butler, “Tom followed in my footsteps” said Berns, to earn a Master of Music in Percussion at the New England Conservatory of Music, studying with Berns’ mentor Vic Firth.

“By returning to Indianapolis, Tom created his own multifaceted career,” said Berns, describing Tom’s multiple talents, including collecting and rebuilding old percussion instruments “to sound great, taking them to the next level and figuring out how to make the requisite percussion sounds for any composition. One time he figured out how to make the right wind sound by using his voice and a microphone.

“He was always bailing us out at the ISO — playing for us hundreds of times.”

One particular time it was on a personal level recalled Berns. “In 45 years of playing with the ISO I didn’t have to leave the stage during a program, except for this one time when I might have had food poisoning.”

This was Tom Harvey's first performance with the ISO, at a concert in Tipton.

“Tom was standing next to me playing, and I said to him, “Can you cover this xylophone part while I leave the stage?” He covered beautifully, stealing the show as literally a one—man percussion section covering two percussion books.

“I cannot tell you how proud I have been of Tom Harvey—to see him grow as a percussionist,” summarized Berns. "He has been a role model for young players to make Indianapolis their professional home."

“I think the biggest bond, beyond music and passion for music, was our equal-footing risky sense of humor,” said Michael Schelle.

Tom Harvey shared poignant cartoons on his website. But the image that will last forever with me is the photograph he posted showing a very young girl mimicking the pose of dancer in a painting. He somehow always found a way to share the joyful moments in every life.

“Those of us who knew Tom will remember him for his talent, humor and great heart,” posted a friend.

In lieu of flowers the family would prefer donations to Beat Buddies Indiana or the Music Department of Arsenal Technical High School. 

“If any musicians would like to play during visitation please feel free to bring your axe,” posted Tom’s widow, Kim Harvey.


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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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