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ZMF Day 1 (-ish, 3-ish)

Hey. So… this has been an interesting few days. Mainly, I’ve been trying to adjust to life in a dorm after moving out of a dorm into an apartment, out of the apartment and back home, to now back in a dorm. Meanwhile, I’ve been playing for and talking to some wonderful percussionists and marimbists from across the globe. Also, I’ve had the chance to meet three world-renowned composers, work directly with two of them, and attend four masterclasses each of which has changed my perspective on percussion, life, and the various gibberish phrases useful for communicating about playing style.


Now, it’s currently 10:30 PM in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and I’d very much like to get to sleep, so unfortunately I don’t have much profound to say. I do, however, have several ideas of titles for profound things to say in the next few days (or whenever I manage to find time). They include:


– The Art of Feather-Ruffling


– Glug Glug, Bogadiga Bogadiga, and Paka Paka Paka: The Greatest Words of Great Marimbists


A very interesting few days indeed…


PS: I think I want to start a thing where I share cool stuff I’ve heard about/seen while I’m on my travels. A sort of suggested reading/listening/watching list. I’ve got two for today.

My Pretend Music School, by Ivan Trevino: A thought-provoking article posted on his website (he’s a composer) where he proposes his ideal music training program

Sosso-Bala, by Emmanuel Séjourné: Super groovy percussion octet just performed phenomenally en concert here at ZMF (this video is a few years old)

WGTB Camp 2014!

I have learned one thing this week: my ability to not go ballistic when working with small children is better than I had previously thought. That being said, I am tired. Very tired. I only really worked with the older kids, who in theory are better behaved. But still, they’re just kids. Somehow “Sit down and don’t talk” mean very different things to a 6-year-old and an 18-year-old.

For anyone not familiar with We Got the Beat, here’s some info. The basic rundown: We Got the Beat is a Fresno-based youth percussion performance group focused on getting young kids playing a wide variety of percussion instruments, from keyboards, to drum set, to Afro-Cuban and Brazilian instruments. Without a doubt, We Got the Beat was the foundation for me to be where I am today. Through the group and the connections I made, I met my first percussion teachers and got my first instruments.


Those connections only led to more opportunities. But ultimately, I have We Got the Beat to thank for my ear for and my enjoyment of music. Without the group, I wouldn’t have a love for Jazz, nor would I find marimba to be so fascinating.


I came to a profound realization, though, being at camp this particular year. I’ve become so wrapped up in my studies of minutia in performance, that I nearly forgot something We Got the Beat taught me, to enjoy playing. What I like most about We Got the Beat is that everyone who joins the group enjoys doing what they do. They have fun playing music, and get to see just how much fun is possible.


When it’s over for these kids, some never go on to do much with the technical aspects of playing that they learned. Some leave music altogether. Others of us branch out and find what we truly love about playing and pursue it deeper and deeper. Now that I’ve delved into a pretty deep hole for myself, it’s both comforting and exciting to remember where I started.

Gamelan and Patxi’s

Sooo…. Summer. It’s really hot, and I’m starting to get really bored. I can’t complain that the workload has, well, disappeared, but man some structured time is in order. I got a bit of respite this weekend when we went up to the city again and saw the symphony play again. That was a lot of fun. A gamelan orchestra opened the program before the symphony played, which was awesome. The pre-concert speaker talked about how gamelan music has influenced a bunch of modern (particularly minimalist) composers. After hearing them play, I can safely say that I see why. I kept thinking, “This is totally something Steve Reich would write.”


Also while in the city, I had my first slice of real pizza. I don’t mean that hunk of dough they put sauce and cheese on. This was deep-dish. The real stuff from Patxi’s. It changed my life; that’s all I have to say.



I have to admit, I’m a bit of a delivery junkie. Whenever I know there is a package coming, I’ll stop whatever I’m doing and run to the window if I hear a large truck pass by. Needless to say, it is neither UPS, nor FedEx about 99% of the time. Also, much of that time could have been spent improving myself or reading one of the three books I got in the last package a few weeks ago (Brave New World, Catch-22, and Slaughterhouse Five for all the nerds out there. I know: light summer reading, right?). But, it was ultimately worth it. This was yet another installment of percussion paraphernalia which I will be needing for college in a few short months. I might even get to test drive some of the new sticks during my tour with the National Youth Orchestra!

Segue to shameless plug: The National Youth Orchestra residency/tour starts in just under a month! WOOO!!! This means I get to go and play with 120 amazing musicians and learn from professionals who have really got it going on (Cynthia Yeh from the Chicago Symphony and Jauvon Gilliam from the National Symphony). More information about the tour can be found here and on the NYO public Facebook page. I’ll be updating you here on my blog as often as I can with all the amazing things I’ll have the chance to be a part of.

I don’t have much else to report, since these few weeks have been vastly uneventful compared to the last few weeks of school. Instead of any more boring text, I’ll leave you with a picture of my quickly growing percussion setup, minus the vibes, drumset, and Musser marimba which are in another room, because, you know, I totally needed to have two marimbas.


P.S. I also got back a mallet I sent to get rewrapped. Yi Yang did the work, and I love it already!


Whelp. A Lot of Stuff Happened.

Ok. There’s literally no way for me to condense everything that has happened in the five weeks since I last posted into a reasonable post, so I’ll give you pictures and summary where I can.


1. Merced Symphony

I played a percussion-heavy rendition of Carmen with the Merced Symphony. That was fun. I got to play with my private teacher as well as a few other percussionists I had known before.



2a. CCDOP (Acronyms FTW)

I competed in the Central California Day of Percussion Solo Competition, Snare Drum and Marimba categories, and I placed 4th in each. That was fun. Also included in that weekend was the 23rd annual Central California Day of Percussion, which was just really stinking awesome because I got to see some great percussion ensembles play, including We Got the Beat (pictured below), and got to hear Anthony Cirone play his own etudes from Portraits in Rhythm. That was really fun.



2b. YPO/Fresno Phil Side-By-Side

Also that weekend was the Youth Orchestras of Fresno Side-By-Side concert with the Fresno Philharmonic. That was…fun, and a little bit crazy. Actually, a lot a bit crazy. But The percussionists and I enjoyed ourselves, and we made it out of that concert as better people. I promise I’m in this photo. Or at least part of me is.

side-by-side(photo courtesy of Youth Orchestras of Fresno Facebook Page)


3. AP Testin’

For obvious reasons, I have no photos of the tests I took.


4. SF Symphony

My family and I went up to San Francisco to celebrate the end of AP testing with the San Francisco Symphony. I know, it’s a terrible picture. Considering that it was dark, we were in the second balcony, and it was from my phone, I am willing to let that one go. The symphony played amazingly, and the entire time I was thinking, “Wow. MTT is on stage, conducting live, right here in front of me. Is this real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a crap seat, no escape from the balcony.”







5. The Week of Nothing

Seriously: the week of May 18th, I did NOTHING.


6. Graduation

That was fun. This picture is from the morning of the ceremony, but the ceremony was that evening. Since we couldn’t have phones, I literally have zero pictures from graduation. Everyone else in my family seems to have a million, but I’m to lazy to get them off of their cameras. Don’t judge. I just graduated: it was exhausting.




This last weekend, I competed as a semifinalist in the Southern California International Marimba Competition. I loved playing, but the judges were brutally honest in their feedback. But, I got to see a lot of friends and play for some of the greatest marimbists alive right now, so that was definitely a positive experience. I may or may not have a video of that performance. If I do, I’ll post is as an addendum. Otherwise, just trust me that it went alright.


So there you go. That’s been my last five weeks, and right now, I’m feeling pretty accomplished. That was a lot to do. And now it’s done. And I shall eat pasta, because I’m really hungry and have nothing else to do.




Mallet Wrapping 101

I took my first stab at wrapping my own mallets today. That was interesting. I went off of this tutorial from a Boston percussionist. It took me about 20 minutes to figure out what counerclockwkise meant. It was fun and all, but my hands hurt because I kept winding too tightly.


Of course this was like most first-time adventures, a learning experience. Here’s what I learned:

1. Wrapping mallets is hard to do well.
2. Obligatory second item on list to make one thing I learned into an actual list.
3. Ok, I also learned not to cross too many layers in the center, otherwise
your mallets get all pointy.

It was actually a really cool challenge for me. Most of all, it challenged my perfectionism. I know these first attempts aren’t great. I have a lot of work to do, but I think I’m up for something new.


I feel like this is sounding way too dry, and I’m really tired, so I think I’ll wrap up. Haha. Get it? Boy I’m tired.