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Dave Samuels papers, 1958-2019

Identifier: BCA-055

Scope and Contents

The papers of American vibraphonist and Berklee faculty member Dave Samuels primarily pertain to Samuels’s performance and recording activities from the 1970s through the 2000s and reflect his musical influences, interests, evolution, and accomplishments -- predominantly Samuels’s longstanding musical partnerships with groups Spyro Gyra, Double Image, and the Caribbean Jazz Project, as well as solo projects and collaborations spanning numerous genres. The collection provides some information about Samuels’s teaching activities (Samuels taught at Berklee College of Music from 1972-1974 and 1995-2016), but contains very little material related to his personal or family life.

The collection includes original and compiled compositions and arrangements used for performance, personal study, and teaching; commercial and unpublished recordings on reel-to-reel audio tape, audio cassette, videocassette, and optical media; music studies and teaching materials; and other biographical material and ephemera. Much of the material in the collection is undated, but some items include explanatory notes by Janet Ross, Samuels’s assistant and partner.


  • Majority of material found within 1958-2022


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research by appointment. Advance notice is required for access because materials are stored offsite. Audiovisual recordings have not been transferred. Patrons may view an item’s original container and/or carrier, but the recordings themselves are not available for playback due to preservation concerns. Patrons may request access to viewing/listening copies via onsite appointment, however recordings on obsolete formats may not be available. Contact Archives staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to perform or publish materials outside of Berklee must be obtained in writing from Sarah Samuels, donor.

Biographical Note

American vibraphonist, percussionist, composer, and educator David “Dave” Alan Samuels (October 9, 1948 - April 22, 2019) was born in Waukegan, Illinois to Arthur and Ethel Samuels and grew up in Winnetka, Illinois, where he studied drums with Jake Jerger and piano with Alan Swain. From a young age, Samuels performed with his older brothers in the family band; he played in the New Trier High School jazz band and also gigged at local parties and special events beginning at age fifteen. Samuels taught himself vibraphone after being introduced to the instrument by friend and mentor Renick Ross; his first public performance on vibraphone was with the Renick Ross Trio at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago on November 3, 1968.

Samuels initially studied music at Roosevelt University but ultimately transferred to Boston University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1971. Samuels briefly taught general music in a junior high school in Dorchester after graduation and also took three private vibraphone lessons from Gary Burton, who recommended him to the Berklee College of Music faculty in 1972. After two years as a percussion and improvisation instructor at Berklee, Samuels moved to New York City, where he recorded and toured first with Frank Zappa and then Gerry Mulligan’s sextet.

In addition to sidemanning gigs and collaborations with artists such as Keiko Abe, Carla Bley, Michael Stagmeister, Paul McCandless, Pat Metheny, The Fantasy Band, Bobby McFerrin, and the Yellowjackets, Samuels went on to co-found several groups, including the mallet duo Double Image with David Friedman in 1974, the Skylight Trio with McCandless and Art Lande, and Gallery (with McCandless, David Darling, Ratzo Harris, and Michael DiPasqua). In 1993 with Andry Narell and Paquito D’Rivera, Samuels formed the Caribbean Jazz Project (CJP), whose original lineup also included Berklee alumni Dario Eskenazi (’88) and future Berklee colleagues Oscar Stagnaro and Mark Walker. CJP won a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album in 2003 for the album The Gathering as well as a Latin Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album for the album Afro Bop Alliance in 2008. Samuels also recorded and performed with the contemporary jazz group Spyro Gyra for over fifteen years (1977-1994), during which time the group was named #1 Contemporary Jazz Artist and Contemporary Jazz Group of the 80s by Billboard magazine and were nominated for several Grammy awards. Samuels recorded more than 100 albums over the course of his career, including twenty-four albums with Spyro Gyra, ten with Caribbean Jazz Project, ten solo albums, and six with Double Image.

In 1995, Samuels returned to Berklee where he taught courses in the Ensemble department, gave private instruction, and conducted ensembles until 2016. Samuels was also an adjunct professor at New England Conservatory, New York University, and Manhattan School of Music, and traveled internationally to offer masterclasses and clinics.

Samuels published two volumes of the method book Contemporary Vibraphone Techniques (1992), as well as works for ensemble “Rendezvous” and “Square Corners,” and a work for marimba solo, “Footpath.” He also created his own signature line of mallets with the manufacturer Malletech.

Samuels was voted “Best Vibes Player” in both JAZZIZ (1987, 1989, 1992) and Modern Drummer magazines (1987, 1989). In 2015, he was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society (PAS) Hall of Fame and Double Image was inducted into the World Mallet Association Hall of Fame. Samuels served as a member of the PAS board of directors from 1986–1993 and 2005–2011. He was also an actor/speaker for the To Whom I May Concern program for individuals and families of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Samuels was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2013 and died April 22, 2019 in Bridgeport, Connecticut.


19 Cubic Feet (10 records carton boxes, 2 legal manuscript boxes, 6 media storage boxes, 1 flat storage box)

Language of Materials



The papers of American vibraphonist and Berklee faculty member Dave Samuels (1948-2019) primarily pertain to Samuels's performance and recording activities between the 1970s and 2010s. Materials include scores and charts, commercial and unpublished recordings, music studies and teaching materials, and biographical material and ephemera.


This collection has been arranged into four series: Series 1, Scores and Charts (1981-2003, undated); Series 2, Audiovisual Recordings (1970-2016, undated), which has been further arranged into subseries; Series 3, Biographical Material (1970-2022); and Series 4, Music Studies and Teaching Material (1958-2008, undated).

Custodial History

This collection was compiled, boxed, and transferred from Samuels’s home in Connecticut by his assistant and partner Janet Ross and Berklee colleague Gustavo Agatiello following Samuels’s death in April 2019. The materials were temporarily stored at the home of Berklee faculty member Ed Saindon in Methuen, Massachusetts. Berklee Archives took physical custody of the collection in November 2019. A few additional items were hand-delivered to the Archives by Janet Ross in 2022.

Acquisition History

Donated to Berklee Archives by Dave Samuels’s daughter, Sarah Samuels (BCM '14), 2022.

Related Materials

BCA-056 Renick Ross papers (1946-2022) documents the compositional work of Dave Samuels’s friend and mentor Renick Ross. The collection contains several manuscripts composed or arranged by Ross for vibraphone, some of which may have been used by Samuels in the classroom according to included correspondence; the program and recording of Samuels’s first performance on vibraphone with the Renick Ross Trio in 1968 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; several newspaper clippings and other recordings on which Samuels appears. Detailed anecdotes about Ross and Samuels's relationship are also provided in a redacted correspondence file between Janet Ross and Berklee Archives.

Processing Information

Collection surveyed by Ashley Gray, Processing Archivist, 2019. Inventoried and rehoused by Rachael Rhodes, Maia Smith, and Thomas Wandborg, 2019 and 2021. Collection description and processing of additional material by Ashley Gray.

The Dave Samuels papers arrived housed by format but otherwise in no discernable order; the arrangement scheme for the collection was imposed during processing but items were not physically re-arranged. Loose documents were roughly sorted into folders and folder titles enclosed in square brackets were devised by processing staff. Recordings on reel-to-reel were rehoused into archival enclosures as most original enclosures were damaged and/or deteriorating.

Several published books and commercial scores not authored by Samuels arrived as part of the collection. Among these, volumes that were annotated were maintained with the collection in Series 3 and 4. Unannotated volumes that were not already available as part of the Berklee Library holdings were separated for possible cataloging. The remainder of the volumes were removed for discard or offered to the Berklee Ensemble department. Duplicates of Samuels’s commercial recordings; commercial recordings on which Samuels did not perform; and two pieces of audio mixing equipment were removed for discard or offered to Berklee’s Ensemble department.

A set of demagnetized floppy disks and several reels that had become irretrievably unspooled in their original enclosures were discarded. Duplicates of photocopied material were also discarded. A complete list of removed or discarded items may be found with the collection’s control files.

Dave Samuels papers, 1958-2019
Ashley Gray
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Berklee Archives Repository

Berklee College of Music
1140 Boylston St
Boston MA 02215 USA