Skip Navigation

Alan Hetherington

Alan Hetherington
Alan Hetherington Photo
  • Faculty, Oscar Peterson School of Music



Alan Hetherington’s performing experience spans many of the musical genres in the west where percussion can be found today. He has performed widely in North and South America and the Caribbean: Cumbia in Colombia, the Joropo tradition (maracas) in Venezuela, Afro-Peruvian music in Lima, Peru, Cuban folkloric music in Havana, and today specializes in the many musical styles of Brazil.

His extensive background has allowed him to perform in a variety of musical settings including with The Toronto Symphony, The Vancouver Symphony, John Wyre and World Drums, Nexus, Hermeto Pascoal, Guinga, Andrea Bocelli, David Foster, Michael Bublé, Trichy Sankaran,, Evergreen Club Gamelan, The Canadian Opera Company, Peter Erskine, Glen Velez, Filó Machado, Celso Machado, and Henrique Cazes, among others. He was a member of Ravi Naimpally’s critically acclaimed Indo-Jazz ensemble, Tasa, which has toured North America, Europe and Japan, and recorded 5 cd’s. He has also performed and recorded with many accomplished Canadian vocal artists such as Lenka Lichtenberg, Maryem Tollar, Sophie Milman, Carol Welsman, Emily-Claire Barlow, Melissa Stylianou and Kiran Ahluwalia. He has made numerous recordings for television and film and has toured with ensembles or as a solo artist throughout Europe, North and South America and Asia.

A Canadian born drummer/percussionist, he holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of British Columbia where he studied with John Rudolph, and a Masters Degree in Percussion Performance from the University of Toronto under Russell Hartenberger.

Since 1989 Alan has spent Canadian winters in São Paulo and Rio de janeiro Brazil, performing with Sombra e Agua Fresca, Bell Brasil, Carlos do Cavaco, Chocolatte da Vila Maria, Henrique Cazes, and Filó Machado.

Alan has been a devotee of the samba school tradition of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo since 1990, performing with some of the largest and most exciting percussion ensembles (baterias) in the world. He has studied and performed with great masters including Mestre Serjão from the Escola de Samba Arco Iris and Leões da Hortolândia de Jundiaí, Mestre Sombra from Mocidade Alegre, Mestre Odilon from Acadêmicos do Grande Rio, Mestre Celinho from Unidos da Tijuca, Mestre Beto from Imperatriz Leopoldinense, and Mestre Paulão from Beija-Flor.

Alan is the founder and Director of Toronto’s own Escola de Samba de Toronto, teaches a course in Brazilian bateria at The Royal Conservatory of Music, and has traveled throughout Canada, the United States and Japan teaching the tradition.

Alan’s Escola de Samba de Toronto toured Brazil in 2008, 2011 and 2016 to high acclaim, and today the ensemble is considered one of Canada’s principal cultural links to Brazil.

Alan’s Brazilian musical life is the subject of filmmaker Avi Lev’s feature documentary, We Are Samba.

In 2001 Alan founded the collective, Samba Toronto, together with the creative spirits of his Brazilian colleagues and in 2006 formed the band Sambacana. Their first CD, Nós, was released in 2009.

His most recent recording, A Fantástica Bateria de Alan Hetherington and Chocollatte, recorded in São Paulo and Toronto, is a percussion tour de force that mixes traditional and contemporary idioms.

Also of note is Alan’s role as producer, co-musical director and performer with 2012 Canadian Folk Music Award winning artist Lenka Lichtenberg; releasing 3 CD’s together, including the latest, Embrace.

In 2016 and 2017 Alan brought artists Filó Machado and Henrique Cazes from Brazil to perform in Canadian festivals with Canadian sidemen. He is presently devoting his time towards producing new Canadian-Brazilian musical projects and bi-cultural exchanges.

Alan is a Sonor Drums and Contemporânea Instrumentos Musicais endorser.