Skip to main content


YouTube channel: Laurel Black
CV Download here

Laurel Black is a percussionist and collaborative pianist finding her passions for playing and movement joyfully colliding in research, writing, performance and commissions - over a dozen.  She is published in Rhythm! Scene, Percussive Notes, and abroad, and serves as an Instructor of Percussion at James Madison University and a member of the PAS Health and Wellness Committee.  Her passion for personal observation as a means to injury prevention have resulted in numerous talks across the Southeast and Midwest on the topic.

At PASIC 2017, Laurel revealed PercussionMind. A collaboration with Performing Arts psychologist Mike Cerreto, the study aims to provide insight into the mental habits of professional percussionists.  It is designed to become an interactive resource for educators, students, professionals, and counselors, and can be found at  She also presented at PASIC 2015.

Laurel co-hosts the @ percussion podcast with Casey Cangelosi, Megan Arns, and Ben Charles, where she reports on the juxtaposition of music, psychology, medicine, and philosophy.

As a lover of chamber music and advocate of contemporary music, Laurel is a founding member of L+M Duo, a marimba/piano duo which will be the Ensemble in Residence at University of Illinois, Chicago from 2017-2018.  She also founded Balletik Duo (vln/mar), which was active for several years on the east coast.

From 2012-2015 Laurel was an Adjunct Professor of Music/Staff Accompanist at Concord University in WV: a highlight was creating her own course, Movement for Musicians.  From 2012-2014 she served on the Board of Directors for ECCE [East Coast Contemporary Ensemble], rooted in Boston.  Laurel was praised for her “stunning” (Percussive Notes) performance at the Zeltsman Marimba Festival in 2011, where she was invited to perform as a Showcase Artist. In another life Laurel dreams of being a playwright and actress, but hopes that with maturity her musical projects can incorporate more and more of that dream.

Laurel loves performing with her husband, percussionist/composer Casey Cangelosi.  Together they have played in the USA (TAPS East Coast, PASIC, DoPs, McCormick Marimba Festival), Mexico (Percusonidos), Costa Rica, and Australia (TAPS OZ).
Laurel endorses sticks and mallets by Innovative Percussion, and instruments by Majestic.
MM: The Boston Conservatory. BM: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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…