Paul Cunliffe is the staff percussionist with the University of Iowa Department of Dance. Working for the department since 1979, he provides accompaniment for modern dance, visiting artist workshops, and master classes, and teaches rhythm and drumming classes. Paul has composed original music for student and faculty choreographers with performances at Hancher Auditorium and Space Place Theater in Iowa City and the Cunningham Studios in New York. Paul co-leads the UI Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance Ensemble which was formed after organizing a study abroad trip in 2003 to take University of Iowa music and dance students to Matanzas, Cuba to study Afro-Cuban folkloric dancing, drumming, and song from members of the world renowned Los Munequitos de Matanzas and Grupo AfroCuba. The ensemble has been well received by Iowa audiences in its recruiting efforts through University of Iowa Arts Share and has performed at the Percussive Arts Society International Conference in Nashville in 2004. In 2007, Paul was honored to receive an invitation to travel to Africa to perform with the Sarakasi Dancers and Kenyan Master Drummers at the Earth Event at Gallmann Africa Conservatory in Kenya. In 2011, Paul took students on a University of Iowa International Program Study Abroad Course to India.
Paul has also maintained a busy schedule through the years as a freelance musician working as a drummer and percussionist doing weddings, dance halls, studio recording, advertising jingles, musical theater, club dates, and festivals. He served as house band drummer for many shows during the mid 80s with Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, with weekly broadcasts on National Public Radio from their home base in St. Paul, MN, the Auditorium Theatre in downtown Chicago, and while on tour with the show in Alaska and Hawaii. Paul performs regularly with the Iowa based Latin jazz and salsa group Orquesta Alto Maiz which had the opportunity to perform several concerts at the Montreux Jazz Festival while touring Europe. He also currently performs with Dennis McMurrin and The Demolition Band.