World-Class Master percussionist


“The cross-rhythms and polyrhythms he coaxed from this down-home instrument were astonishing.”  Joe Hannah, composer and piano

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Who HE is

Newman Taylor Baker AKA WashboardXT

After a long and noted career as an internationally esteemed jazz drummer interpreting drum parts for composers such as Henry Threadgill, Diedre Murray, Leroy Jenkins, McCoy Tyner, Billy Harper, Sam Rivers, and Matthew Shipp, and leading his own composition project “Singin’ Drums,” Newman Taylor Baker encountered the washboard in 2010 and it changed his life. The connection between his paternal grandfather, Rev. Dr. T. Nelson Baker, the only former enslaved student to achieve a Bachelor of Divinity (1893) and PhD in Philosophy (1903) from Yale University and the washboard, popular during the lifetime of Rev. Dr. Baker, has fueled Newman’s current creative path. Now Newman is a passion-driven washboarder directing WashboardXT, his concept of 21st-century music for the acoustic and electronic washboard. 


Newman has always been fascinated by the wide dynamic and emotional range of the drum. He has known of its abilities since playing Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” on his record player at three years old. It has been his mission since then to show that drums have beauty, intensity, sensitivity, power, and emotion at all dynamic levels. Touch is central to his musical expression. On the washboard, Newman conjures a variety of sounds and textures in the way he touches the instrument…the angle of the shells when they make contact, the weight of his arm when he touches it, and the number of fingers he uses. The same principle of touch applies when he use sticks on the drum.

In writing for Singin’ Drums, he utilized the established drum set notation like French composer Darius Milhaud. While both the drum set and washboard are deeply rooted in U.S. African culture, the washboard, which preceded the drum set as the first percussion instrument in the earliest jazz bands, does not yet have notation. Following in the footsteps of Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsakov who extended percussion techniques for performance, Lawrence D. Morris and Anthony Braxton who developed their own advanced musical notation and language, Newman utilized the pandemic period to begin development of the first notation system and language, and a sound palette, for the acoustic and electronic washboard. Once this is in place, Newman will use it to compose new work for the instrument and to commission new work from others. In April 2022, Newman focused on creating washboard electronic sounds using a multi-effects pedal during a month-long artist-in-residence in Costa Rica. He had the opportunity to use some of those sounds when he performed on the Earth Day Celebration produced by Ballroom Marfa in Marfa, TX.

In 2021, Newman was commissioned to create and perform a score for Healing Voices-Personal Stories’ 2021 documentary entitled, “One In 7,” featuring three residents of the U.S first shelters for male domestic abuse survivors in Dallas, TX. Envisioning a soundtrack that created continuity, movement, and support for the speakers, Newman made a point of composing for each individual, not just their way of speaking but also of their way of being. “One in 7” received the Film Heals Award at the Manhattan Film Festival, New York, NY (6/2022).

Other recent WashboardXT highlights include performances with Vienna Carroll and the Folk at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston, TX (2/2022), with vocalist and huqin performer Feifei Yang at Flushing Town Hall, Queens, NY (12/2021), with the Bartek Świątek Trio and the Sylwester Ostrowski Quintet, Szczecin, Poland (6/2021), and with his ensemble featuring pianist Matthew Shipp, acoustic bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi, dancer Trashina Conner for Arts for Art’s Online_Salon, New York, NY (3/2021).