I will be performing a concert with a variety of pieces that fall into the styles of contemporary classical, jazz/fusion, progressive rock, and new age. Many people know me for my concerts of very intense percussion pieces in the modernist tradition and experimental circles, however this concert is more attuned to the jazz, rock, and new age sides of my work. The concert also involves more group collaboration than I usually do in my feature solo artist concerts. I, of course, will be performing on my two main instruments: drum kit and marimba.
Many of the pieces on this concert are original works that you have composed. In writing these works, were you imagining other percussionists playing this repertoire as well, or are they intended to be performed exclusively by you?
Good question, especially to an artist who is knee-deep in both working with dead and living composers and involved in songwriting on a daily basis.
Well, first of all, let me start by saying that I am not a trained composer, or a composer with a capital "C!" I simply write music in an endeavor to express myself through my performances. I have no intension of publishing my pieces or asking other performers to "interpret" or "cover" them. When I write music, I combine all of my influences and passions and imagine myself performing, while I write. It's my sincere position that my naivety and lack of experience as a composer gives it a fresh life and raw character. In fact, the theme of my original compositions has been individualism, and each piece tells a different story, or poignant feeling, from my experience. In fact, it is my opinion that people all too often separate "performance" from "composition", because in the moment they end up being a single presentation. I sure hope that people do not think I am "contributing to the repertoire" (or something like that) with my compositions, because that certainly isn't my point!
Signs of New Vitality celebrates the uplifting energy of travel. Where have you been traveling lately?
I have had some very inspiring trips to Costa Rica and Brazil in recent years sharing my performing and teaching, but to be honest I also stop at a gas station I have never been to before on the highway and feel the same way. The theme of this concert is the idea that the world carries so much more energy that awaits us, and awakens potential within us. I believe is it easy for us to get stuck in a routine and feel empty, when all we need to do is embrace the air around us, and open our eyes to what is only a step further on the horizon. As the recent years have passed, and now I am out of school, I am becoming more open to the joy and invigoration that comes from meeting new people and traveling to share my work. New places and new cultures. I continue to feel new gobs of energy and continue to learn more. I also believe this connectivity, if we embrace it, can have metaphysical and spiritual meaning.
What pieces will guest artists Bethany Gonella and Trent Baarspul be joining you on? Have you collaborated with them before?
The other exciting thing about this concert is the musicians I have asked to join me on stage this time! Let's start with Bethany (flute). Most know that I have a serious love affair with the flute. It's a little bit of an obsession. So, Bethany... What a fabulous musician and a truly sweet person! Bethany has been very active as professor of flute at Winona State University, as well as performing with the Minnesota Orchestra and in various chamber music and recital capacities. Her tone, technique, rhythm, and attention to detail are truly astounding, and she helps bring out the best in me, too. She's also very joyful, easy going, and a great team player. Bethany and I have played some recitals together, and have working in orchestras together, but this is the first time we have gone full force to play two concerts together this month. She approached me wanting to learn Garreth Farr's beautiful 1991 composition Kembang Suling- Three Musical Snapshots from Asia for marimba and flute, and I said yes. The piece serves as a beautiful opening to the theme of the concert, ironically depicting three places I have never been to before. This, I feel symbolizes the spiritual reality that I have been there before, but not physically, somehow channeling the energy of the places through this performance. As a retaliation to her invitation, threw all my original compositions on her music stand. Thankfully, she also said yes!
Trent Baarspul (guitar) has been a local musician that as intrigued me and inspired me a lot this year. I have attended a handful of his own performances, both with New Sound Underground (his former jazz/funk band), Trio of Life (with Kevin Gastonguay), and several of his acoustic shows. His playing is a beautiful mix between jazz, fusion, rock, and even some bluegrass and country. He plays finger and pick style, and get's some very fascinating sounds out of the electric guitar. His solo lines and chord voicings are extremely tasteful and interesting. Although I was a bit nervous, I wanted to ask him if we could work together in some way, hoping that there might be some interesting chemistry. Thankfully, he said yes, and has done a great job learning my original compositions while adding his own flavor. I was also excited when he felt inspiration to bring one of one his own compositions to our rehearsals (which we will be playing at the show!).
Any other news or events coming up you’d like to share?
I am very excited and grateful to have been asked by Heather Barringer to join Zeitgeist playing percussion in their performance of Stockhausen in April, and I will be recording a work for marimba and saxophone with the Parma Records label in May. The big plan on my horizon is my South America tour in June and July. I will be visiting 7 locations around Brazil and Argentina, including the International Percussion Festival Patagonia, performing solo concerts and clinics.
To readers: I hope to see you all at the show!
Signs of New Vitality
Studio Z: 275 East Fourth Street, Suite 200, St. Paul
$5 for attendees of Jazz at Studio Z at 7 p.m.
Details & Tickets
Interview by Katherine Bergman