Robert Koritz

I write this with just a bit of bias and a bit of jealousy. You see, back in the day, I was once a hotshot drummer, or at least I thought I was. Then, in 1984, I was going to try out for the Ladue High School Jazz Band, when this kid, who was a grade below me, and I had known all my life sat down at the drums. His name was Robert Koritz, and he blew me off the stage. Robert’s hands moved so fast and his sense of timing and musicality made mincemeat out the rest of us. He got the gig. 

Robert and I would end up at the University of Arizona together as well. Two things can happen to you in Arizona. You can either get hooked on the Grateful Dead or not. I didn’t, Robert did. But, for Robert, the Grateful Dead became more than just a “thing you get into,” it literally became his life, as he would take both his amazing drum skills and his passion for the music of the Dead, and create a life. Now, Robert is chairman of the Camp Sabra committee, as well as the drummer for the band Dark Star Orchestra and has helped keep the music and live concert experience of the Dead alive for the past 20 years.

Thanks to the pandemic, the band was unable to tour so Koritz began taking to social media, hosting Facebook Live conversations, inviting friends and fans to talk anything and everything Grateful Dead. As you might expect, there was plenty to talk about, and soon Koritz was approached by the St. Louis songwriting team, Brothers Lazaroff, with the idea of turning the conversations into a podcast.

“I was enjoying doing my Facebook Q&A’s with fans, so when they came to me with the idea, I had to think about it for a few minutes, but thought, “why not,” said Koritz.   

Now, “The Music Plays The Band” podcast is launching on all streaming platforms. The podcast features Koritz talking to the some of the biggest stars in the Jamband world and beyond, focusing on how the Grateful Dead influenced their lives and their music. 

“I got into the Dead in high school, and was really taken by the drumming,” said Koritz. “When I was in music school, I listened to them but wasn't playing this kind of music yet. In early 90s, I started to play it while I was still gigging in all kinds of other styles. Later on, I found out about Dark Star Orchestra and became a member of the band. That was 1999, so that’s a good portion of my professional career. 

In addition, the shows will include segments that examine different aspects of the Grateful Dead’s history, audio innovations and culture. 

The first segment, The Black Music Movement, gives Koritz and his guests a chance to spotlight and discuss black musicians who had an influence on the Grateful Dead. “Some of them, people are familiar with, but there are quite a few that people have very little idea about,” says Koritz. 

The second segment, The Sarno Music Solutions Breakdown, is a short segment looking at things from the more technical side of music, particularly the Grateful Dead. How they used microphones, and innovative recording techniques, live sound, and instruments.

And lastly, The Cover Bands. It’s quite possible that no band in American history has been covered as much as the Grateful Dead. “There is a huge number of local Dead bands around the country,” said Koritz. “This is a chance to spotlight some of them and find out not only about them as musical groups, but also the communities that they foster.”

The first two episodes of ‘The Music Plays the Band’ podcast are available now and feature special guests such as Keller Williams, Rob Barraco (Dark Star Orchestra, Phil & Friends, The Dead), Kenny Withrow (New Bohemians), Vinny Amico (moe.), and Ben Kaufman (Yonder Mountain String Band). 

Koritz says he hopes that the audience will be entertained and educated. “If they are a Dead fan, it goes pretty deep, but if they aren’t there is still plenty to make it interesting, and who knows, it might even turn some people on to the music.”

You can find the podcast where ever you download from or try the following links: