Andrew Turpening is a passionate drummer who challenges himself to learn a variety of instruments and takes the art of percussion seriously, elevating it from rhythm support in a song to the main instrument. Although he began learning the drums at age 12, he didn’t turn his focus to his current forte, Latin music, until much later. Now he’s working on a new album while a Hinge Arts resident at Springboard for the Arts in Fergus Falls.
Turpening already has an album under his belt, “Nebraska” by his one-man-band enTraance, which he composed during a 2014 residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska. The album was released on CD in 2017 and is available to stream on Spotify and available for purchase on iTunes, as well as on his site entraance.com. His sound is mostly Latin inspired, but he also blends in Baroque-styled strings, modern drums and synthesizer. He’s able to do this a single player by recording himself on his computer and then putting it all together, occasionally using computer-generated instruments whose notes he can input via keyboard. “The realism you get with virtual instruments is just outrageous. I did this on a keyboard but it sounds like a bass,” Turpening says, as he showed his process at a meet and greet hosted by Springboard for the Arts. “It’s just crazy, the technology that we’ve gotten to is just completely absurd and personally I’m glad to live in the times we live in because we have so many options as artists, the technology can help us so much.”
Although technology helps him put his music together, it’s also a hindrance. “What’s difficult of course is I have to run the website, I have to do social-media promotions, the responsibility you have is so much greater that all this other stuff takes away from composing and practicing,” he says. That’s why he quit his day job just a few weeks ago — so he could allot more time to making and producing his music.
“The job I just left was working with the long-term homeless so I was a housing case manager, I’d help people who were homeless for a long time and help them get apartments, that was the major part of the job, and the second part of the job was to help them not get evicted, which was equally hard or harder. I did that for the last four and a half years and I had a mostly Latino caseload so I was working with older Mexican, El Salvadorian guys and helping them,” says Turpening, who also works as a medical interpreter at Shriners Healthcare for Children in the Twin Cities. “Now what happened was I was kind of burning out and I had a client or two that were actually kind of dangerous and I started worrying for my safety, and I realized I didn’t want to do this for the rest of my life and when I got the Hinge residency, I thought OK … now I’m going to quit my job, do a sabbatical, part of the sabbatical would be this residency.”
In addition to his social-service and medical-interpreting job, working on his own music and practicing drums (he does an hour of stick control a day), Turpening also plays Latin music for performers in the Twin Cities with a focus on Cuban and Brazilian music. “I play mostly Latin music right now in the Twin Cities and I’m sort of a first call timbale player, that’s the main thing I’m known for right now, so when salsa singers come up from Puerto Rico they’ll call me and I’ll learn their whole repertoire and then play the show,” he says.
Turpening started to learn drumming when was 12 and started learning Spanish when he was 14, but he didn’t put the two together for a while. “It’s really funny to me how long it took to realize that I could play Latin music, it never even occurred to me,” he says. “Eventually, I think somebody invited me to join his Latin band, and I started playing some bongos and I got better at it, this was in 2000, and somebody from work, I was doing social work with Latinos, and he gave me a flyer and said go to Cuba for this labor seminary, and I said, ‘Oh, I should do that.’” In Cuba, in addition to watching Fidel Castro give a speech at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana, Turpening felt it would be an amazing place to study drums and set up an eight-month trip to study drums at the National School of Arts (ENA) in Havana. As a result, he can play a variety of Latin percussion instruments and brought many of them with him, including a cajón, claves, shakers and tamborim.
Turpening sticks primarily to instrumental music and will be working on his second enTraance album while here in Fergus Falls, but he says music with lyrics is the next frontier for him.