Midway ZMF Update

For those of you who may not know, I’m currently at the Zeltsman Marimba Festival in Arcata. I’ve been wanting to write about my experiences thus far, but I couldn’t seem to find Facebook notes after all the changes they’ve made. Finally today, while doing a load of laundry, I found the time to actually locate Notes again. So, from my phone in the laundry room at Humboldt State University while I enjoy a bag of peanut M&M’s, here comes my week at ZMF.

I was feeling really inadequate on my first day, everyone was practicing in the rooms around me, and they were all playing much more difficult repertoire than I was. But, as I started to meet new people, I found that everyone here is really quite kind and supportive. Within the first few hours, I met several people in and beyond college years with a wealth of knowledge and wisdom that I am still trying to fully tap into.

I found myself at the first rehearsal (geeking out only a little bit because it was Nancy Zeltsman herself who was coaching us) feeling a sense of ensemble cohesion I hadn’t ever felt before. Part of it was the players, but I think most of it was that we all really wanted to be there doing what we were doing. I’m actually really excited to see what that ensemble’s work will amount to at tomorrow’s concert. Whether the performance goes well or not, though, I am walking away having learned (I hope) much of what it means to be an ensemble player and the satisfaction of working with other people, devoting all of ourselves to make music.

It’s noteworthy that about halfway through that last paragraph, I looked up from my phone to see that my washing was nearly done. I got ready to move everything to the dryer, when I noticed that I had used the last of my quarters to purchase my M&M’s. So, after a moment of crisis, trying to figure out what to do with a load of wet clothes and no dryer, I went back to the vending machine for a Snickers and some extra change in quarters.

Back to marimba. The master classes have been great. Without sounding too clichéd, I’d have to say my entire outlook on marimba and music in general has changed. I’d also like to give a little shout out to Diane Downs and Brenda Myers. During our discussion about the future of marimba, the topic of young musicians came up. In that context, I told everyone that I got my roots in percussion from We Got the Beat (I also mentioned Diane’s ensemble the Louisville Leopards). It turns out that not only were the participants interested by the concept of a young percussion ensemble, but also some of the faculty (including Nancy herself) had heard of these two groups.

Perhaps the best highlight so far was the Marimba One factory tour. It was everything I had imagined in terms of craftsmanship, but I was surprised most by the fact that everyone we met was extraordinarily humble for a staff that builds the world’s finest marimbas.

My thumbs are getting tired, so I think I’ll leave it at that. All in all, this is one of the best musical experience I’ve ever had, and I’d gladly do it again next year.

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