Drawing upon a deep connection to sound and nature, percussionist and composer Zaneta Sykes infuses music with meditation and grace.  From contemporary classical to folk to world music, she has performed with luminaries such as Michael Tilson Thomas, Andre Watts, and Sarah Chang.  As a recording artist, she played on America’s Got Talent and her music can be heard in the Gems and Minerals exhibit at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. A graduate of the University of Southern California, Zaneta received her Bachelor’s of Music in Percussion Performance and studied with Erik Forrester, Lynn Vartan, Joseph Perriera, and Frank Epstein.  Now residing in Brooklyn, she works as a freelance percussionist, composer, and devoted teacher.



Since moving to New York, Zaneta began tracing her Native American ancestry.  Inspired by old family letters and storytelling, she is composing a programmatic suite for marimba, vibraphone, guitar, flute, and vocals, to be premiered in the summer of 2012.

As a percussionist, Zaneta can be heard on Stephen Hartke’s Percolative Processes, featured on Sonic Scenery, a collection of sound installations commissioned by the Los Angeles History Museum for their exhibits.  She has performed under conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and with soloists Andre Watts, Sarah Chang, Lynn Harrell. In addition, she has performed on America’s Got Talent and premiered John Corigliano’s Circus Maximus on the West Coast at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  Her classical repertoire includes the works of Bach, Cage, Harrison, Stravinsky, Reich, and Hartke. For repertoire list or to listen, visit MUSIC.



Zaneta teaches students ages three and up in private lessons and group classes.  She teaches percussion, drum set, music theory, songwriting, beginning piano in private and/or  group lessons in the greater New York City area.  In addition, she specializes in working with youth, women, and special needs students.

In New York, Zaneta has worked with students, teachers, and parents in some of the toughest public schools through award-winning programs, such as Girls Inc NYC, GO Project, and the Leadership Program. As a proud teaching artist, she has helped at-risk youth and young women through positive youth development and character education through the arts.

In California, Zaneta was director of youth music for the Covina United Methodist Church.  There she conducted drum circles, arranged music for rock bands, and organized performances.

To take lessons or be placed on the waiting list, please REGISTER. Read about Zaneta’s teaching mission, visit TEACHING.



Growing up in Los Angeles, Zaneta began drum lessons with her father, local  jazz drummer Steve Sykes at age four.  She quickly to took to the drums and spent most of her days listening to old vinyl records, traveling to gigs, and practicing drums with her Dad in the park.

While at the University of Southern California, she studied with percussionists Erik Forrester, Dr. Lynn Vartan, Joseph Pereira (timpanist of the L.A. Philharmonic), Frank Epstein (Boston Pops), and Jim Babor (LA. Philharmonic).  Upon graduation, she was honored with Bachelor’s of Music in Percussion Performance and the Percussion Award for Excellence in Performance from the Thornton School of Music. In addition to music performance, she studied music criticism with Pulitzer Prize winner Professor Tim Page and gender studies with Professor Lisa Bitel, both of whom inspired her to pursue research in gender associations in music education for her senior thesis project. That research has strongly influenced her teaching practices and guided her teaching mission.

Since graduation, Zaneta moved to Brooklyn to develop her music. She is a certified Music Together instructor and is trained in positive youth development, anti-bullying, and character education curriculum through Girls Inc NYC, Boys and Girls’ Club, and the Leadership Program.