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In Memoriam: Kim Plainfield

Dear members of the Berklee community,

“It’s an incredible gift and a privilege to be a musician. I really want my students to know that and understand the beauty and positive force in the world that music is.”

Kim PlainfieldThe words above are from Kim Plainfield, professor in the Percussion Department, and it is with great sadness that I write to tell you that Kim passed away unexpectedly on the evening of Saturday, April 9. He had just returned from a clinic tour in China.

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area and based in New York, Kim established a very successful career as a performer, author, and educator. He accumulated numerous performance and recording credits during his professional career, which started in earnest at the age of 19 when he began playing with Mingo Lewis and subsequently secured the drum chair with the Pointer Sisters.

Three years later, Kim moved to New York City, where current Berklee faculty member Kenwood Dennard introduced him to the Drummers Collective and Kim’s pedagogical career took hold. He also started playing with Bill Connors, the world-renowned guitarist from Chick Corea’s original Electric Band, and Didier Lockwood, the unparalleled French jazz violinist. Other performing and recording credits include Jon Lucien, Andy Narell, John Patitucci, Kenny Rankin, Edgar Winter, Mose Allison, and Tania Maria. His seven-year engagement with Maria, during which he toured extensively in the U.S., Europe, and the Far East, garnered him international recognition. During that period, he combined extraordinary technical abilities with versatile musicality into developing his very special brand of Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian fusion for which he was widely known.

Kim’s several recordings include Night and Day with Berklee faculty member Lincoln Goines; By Request, Mother Nature’s Son, and Listen Love with Jon Lucien; and Live in Europe and Bela Vista with Tania Maria. His recordings Double Up and Assembler with Bill Connors and Live At The Olympia by Didier Lockwood are considered icons of contemporary fusion music.

An alumnus of University of Southern California, Kim joined the Berklee faculty in 2002 and, during his 15 years at the college, taught his very popular courses, Funk Repertoire Development and Application and Fusion Repertoire Development and Application, as well as various ensembles and many private instruction students. He was also chair of the faculty at the Drummers Collective in New York City, where he taught since 1999. He previously held the rank of associate professor at SUNY Purchase College Conservatory of Music.

Kim’s teaching philosophy and approach embraced understanding the roots of different styles: “I convey to students the basic rhythmic structures that make the styles unique. It is through those basics that they learn how to make something that sounds genuine. I always tell my students, ‘You’ve got to learn the rules in order to break the rules.’ ”

As an author, Kim’s publications included Fusion: A Study in Contemporary Music, as well as Advanced Concepts, which is considered the bible of modern progressive drumming, and drew students to Berklee and Drummers Collective in New York.

Kim maintained an active schedule as a performer, clinician, and educator beyond Berklee. He toured frequently as a leader, including the Kim Plainfield Trio, conducted countless clinics worldwide, and frequently served as artist-in-residence at various conservatories in Europe. Since 2010 he joined the renowned Outreach Orchestra, which features such world class musicians as John Clark, Dave Taylor, Adam Holzman, Mino Cinelu, and Franz Hackl.

John Ramsey, chair of the Percussion Department, shares these thoughts: “It’s fair to say that virtually every percussion student who has passed through Berklee in the past 15 years has taken at least one semester with Kim—or at least wanted to. His schedule was always full, an indication of how much Berklee students loved him and sought out his special brand of knowledge and experience. His passing leaves a big hole at Berklee and in the drumming community worldwide.”

I invite you to share your stories and memories of Kim Plainfield below.


Jay Kennedy
Vice President for Academic Affairs/Vice Provost


올해 졸업식에는…


In Memoriam: Vuk Kulenovic


  1. tom bover

    RIP you are missed by so many

  2. Tim Horner - Berklee Alum, Jazz Drummer , Composer , Educator

    So very sorry to hear this news about Kim.
    He was such a great musician and positive person . He will be missed .

  3. Jonathan Wheatley


    I wouldn’t say I knew Kim (never had the opportunity to play together) but I’ll never forget him. Here’s why: some years ago I was planning my ‘Berklee Teachers on Teaching’ day and chose Kim’s presentation about dealing with performance anxiety. I appreciate any time someone speaks candidly of experiences and reflections on performance anxiety. It remains a tall order to set ‘impossibly high standards’ and perform comfortably, consistently and with full projection of ideas and emotion. I think although many have identified and developed good ways to work on performance stress, it needs to be destigmatized for us and our students. Kim’s vivid account of his work and life was a great step in that direction. I ran into him a year or two later, introduced myself, and thanked him. He was pleased.
    Of course, though that was my experience with him, the story is his remarkable career and successes! Well done.

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