This week we are bringing you information about our Academy host and professor of percussion at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Learn more about Brian and his projects on this website.
What was the key factor in your career as a musician?
BB: I wouldn't say there was really one key factor. This came in stages for me. None of my family members were musicians or artists at all, except my younger sister who went on to complete a graduate degree in clarinet performance. My high school band director exposed me to the drum corps activity in the ninth grade. At that impressionable age, this looked like the pinnacle of all musical performance for a drummer. I had a few friends march that summer and I went to see them at a couple of shows in Florida, where I grew up. This lit the first fire under me and I began practicing rudimental snare drum everyday after school. Since this was pre-internet days, I started collecting photocopies of all the music and exercises I could get my hands on. Drumming along with scratchy dubs of cassette tapes was a big part of my early music education as a percussionist. My first audition for a drum corps landed me in the front ensemble. It was there that my love for the marimba, vibes, and other concert percussion instruments began. I would say those experiences were crucial to my decision to pursue music in college and eventually as a career. The first summer I marched exposed me to classical repertoire, played by the Phantom Regiment, Star of Indiana, Cadets, and other corps. I went home and bought recordings of the pieces they played. Some of this rep, including Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance by Samuel Barber are still favorites. I would say a key moment for me in deciding to focus more on marimba specifically came at a Day of Percussion in Florida. I heard Nanae Mimura perform Bach's Chaconne on marimba. The power and richness of sound she produced, contrasted with such a delicate touch captivated me. I started practicing just as hard on marimba as I had on snare drum years before.
What individual or group of people guided you in your passion for music?
BB: My high school band director had a lot of early influence here. Not only did he play us recordings of drum corps, he also played us accessible orchestral works and engaged in conversations about these pieces. I still remember lying on the floor in our band room listening to Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks by Strauss. I couldn't leave this question without also giving credit to my college professors. Jeff Moore at Central Florida was my undergraduate teacher. His curriculum and honesty in lessons pushed me to become the player and teacher I am today. I truly wouldn't be in this profession if it wasn't for Jeff. Micheal Udow at Michigan opened my ears to so many new possibilities and pushed me to rethink so many aspects of my playing. I credit him with the concept of sound I have developed in my career so far. Of course, John Parks at Florida State has been such an influential figure in my professional life. His guidance and commitment to the professional inspires me everyday.
What is your favorite movie/ movie series and why?
BB: This is difficult to decide! I have been a Star Wars fan for a long time. The first release, Episode 4 came out the year I was born. So, I guess I'm connected to this by birth. This and the Marvel series are tied for me. I think the complexity of the characters and the interwoven plots among the films interests me most. The running theme of hope that connects these films keeps me watching. They are also great distractions from all the "real life" work I need to do each day.
Who is your favorite artist/ composer and why?
BB: There are so many to list here. I listen to a lot of Bach and try to find new recordings of his music by interesting artists/ensembles. My favorite right now is the new release by Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile. Chris Thile is one of my favorite musicians right now too. I've started to hear the sound of the mandolin as similar to the upper octaves of the marimba. One of my favorite newer composers right now is Adam Silverman. I love what he is doing with sound combinations and pushing what traditional classical percussionists are asked to do.
Outside of music, what hobbies do you have?
BB: I'm not sure if hobby is the correct term for this anymore, but running has become a very important part of my life. I started running during the summer between the two years of my Masters degree and haven't stopped since, except for the eight months I had to take off because of a stress fracture. Trail running has become a passion and a place to escape for me. I feel connected with nature and find plenty of time to think and reflect on the trails. I recently began training for my second 50 mile race! I'm looking forward to running some trails in the northern part of Minnesota later this year during the Lake Superior 50 Miler.
Tell us any more important information. Give a list of upcoming musical/ marimba projects.
BB: I'm excited to record an album of marimba and vibraphone works this May with John Parks and the Garnett House Productions team. Besides hosting the HMFA, this is the biggest project on the horizon for me. Look for a release sometime later this year!
The HMF Blog posts featuring our people are compiled and prepared by our 2017 intern, Scott Eiklenborg (a percussion student at Wartburg College, Waverly, IA).