AFTER RYE: From Holly Lane to a Philly Beat

Some grow up in Rye and remain for a lifetime, then there are those who take flight and bring their talents to new places.

Published April 18, 2014 5:00 AM
4 min read


HOWE-THUMBSome grow up in Rye and remain for a lifetime, then there are those who take flight and bring their talents to new places.

By Georgetta L. Morque

Howe Pearson on drumsSome grow up in Rye and remain for a lifetime, then there are those who take flight and bring their talents to new places.

Howe Pearson grew up on Holly Lane in a house with a music basement where he banged on drums and strummed guitars with his friend and neighbor, Henry Robertson, in a punk band named Outside of Everything and jammed with his older brother, Nate, and Rye Country Day friends in a ska band called the Skandals.

Pearson’s passion for music, which sprouted early, continued to grow and now it’s blooming in Philadelphia, where he lives with five other musicians in a house they call Gentlemansion. He plays the drums and sings in the band, Big Tusk, which is best described as indie/psychedelic rock with lots of harmonies. According to a review in The Temple News, “a typical Big Tusk tune is a balancing act between spacey head nodding and groovy hip-shaking.”

Band members, including Sam Long on guitar, and David Thompson on keyboard and synth-bass, all met at Wesleyan University. There, Pearson, class of 2012, found true camaraderie among other like-minded music lovers and jumped into the band scene, primarily playing the drums, his favorite instrument, and worked with drum teacher Bill Carbone who was influential to his growth.

Big Tusk performs original songs and covers at several bars and venues, such as Dahlak Paradise in West Philly and the El Bar in Fishtown, in addition to home basements, where they’ve cultivated a following.  Pearson also plays drums with the band, Wilbur. “I’m always trying to collaborate with other Philly and Wesleyan music friends.” Big Tusk has produced a CD and has released a few EP’s on Bandcamp. “In about a month, we’ll put two new songs online,” noted Pearson. “Hopefully, we’ll have enough songs for a full album by this summer.” To stay afloat, the band members also have “day” jobs. Pearson teaches fourth graders at an afterschool program in West Philly and coaches soccer; Thompson is a barista; and Long is a gardener.

Big-Tusk-at-pianoPearson says his Rye roots were influential to his musical career, particularly his parents who exposed him to all types of genres, along with his drum teacher Gerry Fitzgerald at the Rye Arts Center and Mary Marcell, head of the music department at Rye Country Day, who was his teacher for two choirs and the Wildscats a cappella group and who also worked with him on his lead role in “The Pajama Game” during senior year. “She taught me so much about singing and music in general and exposed me to composers like Eric Whitacre and amazing songs from all around the world. She also inspired me and my friends to form a barbershop quartet.”

 “Howe is a terrific person and fabulous musician and I’m not surprised at all that he’s gone on to pursue a musical career,” said Marcell. “At morning meetings, he would almost always perform with other students despite the fact he was the organizational and musical force behind the song. Students wanted to ‘do a song with Howe.’ He’s an incredibly generous person to share the stage with. While he always had a certain “star” quality to his performances, he encouraged others into the spotlight.”

Like Pearson’s Rye home, Gentlemansion has a music basement, which also serves as a recording studio. On a typical night, there are several housemates singing or making dinner for one another. Jam sessions, soon to be weekly, bring together various musician friends who love making music together and independently. “I think improvisation is very therapeutic, as you have to let go of your fears and focus all of your thoughts solely on music, and some of my favorite memories are of improvising with my friends,” said Pearson.

The Pearson house is fairly quiet now that the youngest, Henry, also a musician, is a freshman at Middlebury College, but it comes to life again during visits and special performances for family and friends. To hear Big Tusk or purchase the CD, visit




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