Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Big news

I have been accepted as a Doctoral candidate at the University of Northern Colorado! I will entering this fall, 2013, and will be a Graduate Teaching Assistant to Prof. Gray Barrier. You can check out my Bio and CV at for more details.

In other news, my wife Jacqueline Wilson will be joining the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville as Assistant Professor of Bassoon and Theory this fall.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Blog Update

If you were an avid reader of this blog, you may notice that there haven't been any posts in a long time.  I took an extremely long sabbatical from writing, and am now in the process of figuring out what to do with this old site.

For starters, I have removed a large amount of written material.  In the future, I may repost some of this on my official website; however, most will likely never be reposted, based on many factors.  The posts that have remained include daily logs from a residency in Dubuque, and two Collaborative Process blogs.  These were projects I enjoyed working on, and didn't want to see disappear quite yet.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Collaborative Process: Notating Rolls

Thanks for tuning in! This week I’ve decided to talk about rolling. I’m going to shoot an MPP tomorrow discussing the use of rolls in chorales, and giving some tips to composers. But for today, I’m going to answer a question from Brian:

Is there any emerging standard notation for the variety of different roll styles the marimba is capable of (alternating between both hands at the same time, rolling 1-4 or reverse, any other techniques that the average composer may not be familiar with)? Alternately, talk about the different styles of rolling available with examples. Is it something that the composer generally leaves up to the player or that they specify? Are they more likely to specify if they are a percussionist moonlighting as composer?

In general, there are three different styles of rolls that composers use. Thankfully there is a fairly standard way of notating these styles. However, it is a safe bet to use a key to inform the performer of what you mean. Let’s show you some examples of what I mean:

(You can click any of these examples to view a larger version)

Performance Note Keys

Traditional (2+2) Rolls:

Most of the time this is what is written. A lot of composers will only write out traditional rolls, leaving it up to the performer’s discretion if they choose to play ripple rolls or not. Some marimbists prefer to almost always play LH + RH, some prefer to almost always ripple roll…

Ripple Rolls:

Again, a lot of composers will choose to not worry about ripple rolls because the performer will oftentimes choose whether they want to ripple roll or not. You often see this notation in works by percussionists, or works that have been edited by a percussionist prior to publication.

One Handed Rolls:

The use of notating the one handed rolls is if one hand will at some point stop rolling and play an articulated line.

Here are a couple other tidbits:

This is an older way of notating normal rolls. I personally don’t like this style, because it confuses me. I prefer to see all of the notes stacked over each other.

As far as specifying the ripple roll direction (1-2-3-4; 4-3-2-1; 1-2-4-3; etc.). I would leave that up to the performer. It would change from performer to performer based on what feels comfortable to them. Most of the time when I play a ripple roll I go up from 1 to 4. This is because I like to play the bass note first to give the chord some resonance; and I like to play the top note last (if it’s a melody) so that it’s easier for me to bring it out.

Hopefully I covered everything in Brian’s question. These are really the only 3 styles I’ve found. However, if any readers have seen any other examples please share!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dubuque Residency Recap (3/15-3/26)

Number of Schools hit:
27 (in 10 school days!)

Miles driven:

Number of students entertained:

What a crazy week! This was quite the experience. Every day I woke up around 6am, quickly got ready, and packed the car. It was usually a 15 minute loading time because I was on the third floor. The car was filled with my marimba, four djembes, and lots of percussion accessories. I would usually perform three assemblies in one day, and would always have a board member with me making sure that I (the “artist”) had chairs and a microphone. They would often be on the phone calling the next location to prepare, because there was often very little time between performances. For example, we would have an 8:30 performance (that got over at 9:15), and then a 10:00 performance. So, it would all depend on how far the two sites were from each other.

It was a wonderful opportunity for me, and it gave me a chance to experiment with different elements in the show. For example, most of the time my assemblies are around 30 minutes, and I often perform two assemblies per school (to break up age ranges). This was not the case on this trip, as I would perform once for 45 minutes. So, I resolved to include more audience participation, and got more kids involved with the performing. I think that this made my assembly infinitely better.

I unfortunately was not able to record any of my performances, but I was able to post some photos. There will hopefully be more to come (taken by board members), so follow twitter to keep updated on that. I want to thank the Dubuque Arts Council for the opportunity, and I want to thank all of the schools for welcoming me.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dubuque Residency, Day 10

Schools hit:
Eisenhower Elementary in Dubuque, IA
Bernard School in Bernard, IA
Hoover Elementary in Dubuque, IA

Miles driven:

Number of students entertained:

Best part of the day:
Before my final performance of the Residency I had a chance to sit and talk with some Kindergarteners. They watched me set up, and then asked a lot of questions about the instruments and what I was doing. Then they began to beg me to let them come up and play during the assembly (which I did). The funniest part, however, was the one confident boy who was telling me that each instrument was easy to play, and that he could do it too.

Additional info:
My final day wasn’t filled with any surprises, but it was fun nonetheless. Each school was excited about the program and really responded well.

The day was a great microcosm for the two weeks. I performed first for a school of 570. The school was also a special needs school, which is always a blast when teaching them how to play hand drums. (I’m being serious!) The second was maybe 50 students, and out in a little tiny town south of Dubuque. And, the final school was more in the middle, about 280 students.

Tomorrow I’ll post a recap of the entire experience.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dubuque Residency Day 9

Schools hit:
Galena Elementary in Galena, IL
Jefferson Middle School in Dubuque, IA
Holy Ghost Catholic Elementary in Dubuque, IA

Miles driven:

Number of students entertained:

Best part of the day:
When I arrived at Holy Ghost I found that the first graders were having music class in the space where I would be playing. So, the teacher had me show them how I put together the marimba, and I gave them a little demonstration of my playing. They were very entertained, and even had some basic knowledge of the instrument before I began.

Additional info:
This morning I performed in Galena, IL. I believe that U.S. Grant was either born here or died here. Maybe both. Anyway, the students couldn’t have been nicer.

At Jefferson I only performed for the sixth graders, and it was a blast. There were several too-cool kids who didn’t want to sing, but I found a way to force them…. (insert evil laugh).

Also at Jefferson a student asked if I was a good dancer. This may be because I look like I’m dancing when I play. I told no, but that I can do a mean robot.

At Holy Ghost one of the students asked if I had a name for my marimba. I replied no, and we held a vote to name it. It is now named Bob.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dubuque Residency, Day 8

Schools hit:
Marquette in Bellevue, IA
LaSalle Catholic School in Luxemburg, IA
Drexler Elementary in Farley, IA

Miles driven:

Number of students entertained:

Best part of the day:
For every assembly I leave a little time at the end for question and answer. Normally these questions center around when I started playing music, how I hold four mallets, etc. Today I had some extremely inquisitive students at all three schools asking phenomenal questions. Some Examples:

What is the marimba made out of?
How do people without access to steel/fiberglass/synthetic materials make their marimbas?
How were the instruments created in Africa?
Is African drumming the first way that rhythm was created?
What are your mallets made of (and why are they different colored)?
What are the drums and accessories made of?

It was a curious couple of audiences, and it made things very fun.

Additional info:
At my first performance today in Bellevue I got to speak with their basketball coach, whom I gathered has been extremely successful. I was immediately impressed with his enthusiasm and care for the arts and the programs being brought in for the students. The schools would be a better place if there wasn’t such a hostile divide between those who support the arts and those who support sports.

I attempted to film MPP episode #2 today… and failed miserably. I think I am official done using the DVD cam for marimba purposes. I will explain sometime else, and continue to rip out my hair now.

The second school I performed for was extremely old, and had a very small echo-ey (is that a word?) gymnasium. This place would be PERFECT to record a marimba album. The marimba sounded magnificently resonant in that small space.