Skip to main content

Fall 2017 - as L+M Duo and co-founder of PercussionMind

Premiering Reef, by Jason Haney, at the Contemporary Music Festival

This fall has been a completely new adventure.  Not necessarily the events within it, but managing them while going through the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy.  In most cases, it posed no extra challenges, but in others...phew!...more on that in a different post! 

L+M Duo

In addition to my teaching at JMU, L+M Duo had an active start to its second season, featuring a premiere at JMU's Contemporary Music Festival (CMF), a new program at Virginia Tech University, and a residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where we workshopped and recorded 8 student compositions.  

I also performed Christos Hatzis' Fertility Rites at CMF, a piece I booked long before having any inclination I'd be almost 8 months pregnant during the performance.  At this time I could still maneuver behind a marimba pretty well!

I also presented a masterclass at Virginia Tech for the entire School of Music, all about using personal observation as a means to prevent injury.  I think some are too quick to jump straight to manipulative methods to relieve symptoms without addressing the cause, so it's become a passion of mine to help guide young musicians to examine their playing with curiosity to find those causes. 


Revealed at PASIC 2017, PercussionMind is a project over a year in the making.  It's now live on the web:, and represents another interest and passion of mine - understanding one's self in order to make decisions and proceed in directions that are congruent with personal habits and natural tendencies.  Mike Cerreto, my co-founder, was instrumental in the success and validity of the project.  He even flew to Indianapolis to unveil the study with me in our session.

Even now, after revealing the results, we are still actively inspecting ways to make the study even more in-depth and personally meaningful to those who come in contact with it.  There's an exciting new development in the works with The Highlands Ability Battery, but that's all I can say about that for now! 


In the teaching and accompaniment realms, this semester (thankfully) fit expectations.  I taught the number of students needed for the percussion studio, but I did scale back accompaniment activities, simply because I had no idea how I'd be feeling towards December, which is when coachings and recitals always ramp up. 

Luckily, I haven't dealt with extreme wrist swelling or tendonitis as a result of pregnancy, something that women who aren't musicians often complain about! I figure this is because I practiced regularly and when technical demands of a piece did start to cause pain, I worked through them slowly or, in the case of Happy Tachyons by John Psathas, I had to admit that I needed to postpone performance.  A great amount of pride can be gleaned from pushing through for all obligations, but is it worth it if you injure yourself in the long run?

 This post seems so short, but in the midst of the semester it felt so busy!  Many pieces learned, lessons taught, and projects completed. The @ percussion podcast is still going strong; we just released our 126th episode!  We've managed to not miss a week in our 2 years of existence, and that's the goal for the immediate future.  

For now, the next big projects are completing arrangements for L+M, editing audio and video, and having a baby at some point in the first half of January. Standard fare. 


Popular posts from this blog

Marimba Body: Back Muscles

This essay is all about the muscles of the back, since we talked about the spine in my last segment.  Since I get to talk all about shoulders at PASIC (woohoo!!!) on Friday, I thought a good connection between spine structure and the shoulder joint would be about the muscles of the back that help to protect both.

Though I've never experienced it severely first-hand, it seems like there is nothing worse than constant back pain.  Ask anyone who has dealt with it and they will say that you must protect your back so you never feel what they do.  Doctors warn their patients that once they have one surgery, chances are they will need more.  (This makes sense, as you can't fix one part of the long spinal structure without later needing to correct other areas.)

There's good news, though: keeping the muscles of the back strong, and freely aligning the spine, can help us lead pain and surgery-free lives.

Waterfall Muscles It's beautiful the way the muscles of the back cascade d…

Marimba Body: Thumbs


Without them who knows how we'd play our instruments.

Interest in the relationship between the hand, wrist, and thumb began a few years ago when I took piano lessons to refine my technique. (As similar as piano and percussion are in theory, there's much less crossover than I mistakenly thought and hoped.)   Anyway, something my mentor said was when the thumb isn't being used it should relax towards the rest of the hand and fingers.  Sure, may sound obvious, but in the throes of playing - piano or percussion - it's easy to forget little things like this. 
Brain: Play a broken 13 over 7, across 6 surfaces...crescendo...oh, right. THUMB. End Scene
Thumbs that are mis-mapped, working more than they should, or working when they don't need to contribute to funny aches, pains, and numbness that can get mistaken for carpal tunnel.  
Just like all other subjects in the Marimba Body series, how we relate to the structure and movement design of the thumb is evident in…

Marimba Body: Aching Elbows

As we gear up for fall and the concert season ahead, whether as a student, professor, or touring artist, it's a good time to reflect on our technical habits.  For those that took time off over the summer, there's the process of re-integrating hours of practice. For those that are preparing entire new programs (ehhem...yours truly), there's the challenge of not rushing through the learning process, mentally and physically. 

Throughout my time writing the Marimba Body series, folks have approached me with different questions of "do you have anything about ___?"  Coming up a few times is the issue of elbow pain - what it is, how we get it, and how to heal and then prevent it. 

Here's what I've learned, experienced, and found.

Three Common Pain Areas Most commonly, percussionists experience elbow pain: - on the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondylitis, aka: tennis elbow) - on the inside of the elbow (medial epicondylitis, aka: golfer's elbow) - at the…