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Death of Sa Davis

Jazz drummer was faculty member for 30 years

NEC Mourns the Death of Jazz Drummer Sa Davis, A Faculty Member for 30 Years

New England Conservatory is mourning the death August 25 of percussionist Vincent "Sa" Davis, 56, who taught hand drumming to NEC’s College, Preparatory, and Continuing Education students from 1980 until his death. According to his brother Richard Harris, Davis’s death came as a shock because he had not been ill.

Davis will be remembered at a wake/funeral service on Friday, September 17,  from 4—8PM at F.J. Higgins Funeral Home, 4236 Washington St. Roslindale Square in Boston. The Funeral will start at approximately 6:00 P.M. A memorial concert is planned for the near future and additional information will be provided at the funeral. Funeral directors are Sampson-Hickey-Grenier Funeral Home of Brockton, MA. For more information, click here.

Davis's work as a musician was at the cutting edge of a new generation of hand drum technique, developed from the musical traditions of Afro-Cuban, African, jazz, Latin, rock, fusion, hip-hop, and pop drumming styles. Davis worked with such artists as Tom Scott, Grover Washington, Jr., Billy Cobham, Freddie Hubbard, and Lalah Hathaway. He performed at Carnegie Hall with George Benson, appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show, and did special projects for Nova and Adventure on PBS. In demand as a studio musician, Davis performed on motion picture and television soundtracks and produced sound effects for the film The Brother from Another Planet. His work can be heard on more than 40 recordings.

A native of Boston, the percussionist’s “lifelong association with music began at an early age,” as he recalled in a memoir he wrote in 1993. “At seven years old, I commenced an elementary study of the piano, and soon progressed to voice, as a part of the Twelfth Baptist Church youth choir, where I received my first real experience with public speaking and vocal performance. My membership in this choir lasted over four years, just until the summer before my twelfth birthday, when my voice changed from soprano in range to something less than a natural singing voice.” 

Davis’s first drum instructor was Tony Pryor, who he met while working in his uncle's barbershop. Pryor was a member of the Nine Lords, a very popular vocal group performing in Boston at that time. His parents encouraged him to continue his studies at New England Conservatory’s Extension Division (the earlier incarnation of the Preparatory School) where he met Ran Blake, who changed his life. “Although he was not a percussionist, Ran was the first person to get me involved in listening to music as a personal tool for musical development,” Davis wrote. That “exposed me to a world of music that was part of my cultural heritage.”  Blake was also among the first of Davis’s teachers who “did not look upon black music as something that was popular but illegitimate when compared to the classics of European music. He was also the person who introduced me to the music of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Stan Kenton, Jeanne Lee, and Chris Connor, as well as his own compositions. In retrospect, I introduced him to the music of Sly Stone, James Brown, and Jimi Hendrix.

“My early years at the Conservatory were the catalyst that propelled me into a career in music,” Davis concluded. “In my final years of high school, my classmates at the Conservatory were a ‘Who's Who’ of the local, national, and international music scene, many of whom have gone on to be well-respected and endeared musicians and composers in their own right.”

For further information, check the NEC Website.


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.

NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115