Robin Tolleson, a beloved Western North Carolina drummer, music journalist and music teacher, died Friday after collapsing while performing with the local band the Secret B-Sides on stage at the Downtown After Five concert series.
Tolleson played drums with a number of bands, including the Secret B-Sides, the Cabo Verde trio, the Hip Bones and others. His playing and touring credits also included Big Block Dodge, Patrick O’Hearn, Indigo Swing, Gregory James and more.
But Tolleson was much more than just a drummer. He was an accomplished music journalist, having been published in Downbeat, Billboard, Musician, Modern Drummer and other publications.
And Tolleson was a devoted music teacher. He worked as director of the Hendersonville Community Music Center, a music outreach program based of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Hendersonville. The Music Center offered a variety of music classes to help prepare young people for middle and high school bands and encourage their creativity and self-expression through music. The program has expanded since Tolleson took over as director in 2017.
At Asheville Music School in Asheville, Tolleson offered “The Spinterview,” a live mash-up featuring rare and classic vinyl from his collection, as well as sound bites from his interviews. Over the years, Tolleson had interviewed music icons including Herbie Hancock, Whitney Houston, Carlos Santana, Phil Collins, Bela Fleck and many more.
Fellow musician Jason DeCristofaro, in a Facebook post shared publicly, called Tolleson “a pillar of the Western NC musical community, who selflessly gave so much back to so many people. He was a musical ambassador, writer and drummer of caliber, a family man, and one of the kindest, gentlest souls who never hesitated to use his time, energy, and knowledge to support others. I will miss him greatly, and wish his family the deepest condolences during this time.”
DeCristofaro said that he, Bob Strain and Connor Law will be performing at Barleys Taproom in downtown Asheville on Sunday night beginning at 7:30 p.m. in honor of Tolleson. In lieu of tips, they will be accepting donations for the Hendersonville Community Music Center.
“Supporting this institution seems would be a wonderful way to honor Robin’s enormous impact and generosity,” DeCristofaro wrote.