Anthony Di Sanza serves as Professor of Percussion at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has performed and presented master classes throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Active in a variety of percussive styles, he can be heard on many internationally distributed CD and video recordings with various artists. Reviewing his solo CD release, On the nature of…, All Music Guide writes, “Di Sanza dazzles not only in the assurance and polish of his playing but in his tremendous vitality and spontaneity.” Di Sanza’s percussion compositions have been performed internationally, and he has signature products with multiple percussion companies.
Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what career could you see yourself having pursued?
Anthony Di Sanza: I do not want to be cliché, but I never really imagined myself doing anything other than a combination of teaching and performing music. As my little anecdote below describes, I was lucky in that I figured out quite early what made me happy, and I am extremely fortunate to have a great job that allows me to balance my own creative work with teaching wonderful students!
R!S: What's one thing in your institution or city/town (other than your school of music or music department) that you are proud to tell people about?
ADS: Madison is a very cool city in which to live as a student or professional. The community has two professional orchestras, countless global, jazz, rock, chamber, etc. performing groups, and many venues to take in the local, regional, and national performance acts that appear regularly in Madison. As the UW-Madison campus, Wisconsin’s flagship university, is integrated into Madison’s vibrant downtown, students have easy access to the myriad artistic, cultural, and community activities in Madison. In short, there is never a shortage of things to do in Madison, both on campus and off.
R!S: What's one thing about you that your students would unanimously proclaim?
ADS: I hope that my students would say that I am an energetic, expressive, open-minded, and engaged teacher and performer. I like to think that I approach all aspects of my teaching and performing with positive energy.
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
ADS: I am not sure I can identify a single favorite percussion instrument. For me, the beauty of the percussion field is in its diversity. That said, at the moment the Middle Eastern frame drum and darabukka (goblet drum) are occupying a great deal of my creative work as a soloist and chamber musician. I love the nuance and flexibility these instruments afford. They are delicate and ornate while possessing great strength and musical power. Additionally, they are both very versatile beyond their traditional settings, blending beautifully in an infinite number of musical settings. I also especially enjoy performing solo marimba and multiple percussion works, exploring contemporary repertoire by established and young composers.
R!S: Where did you grow up and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
ADS: I was born and spent most of my youth in the east suburbs and exurbs of Cleveland. While we moved around a good amount (including two years in California), I spent all of my middle and high school years in one school system and benefited from a strong music program. Interestingly, I can pinpoint the exact moment that I fell in love with music and decided to be a serious musician. During junior high school I was a terrible music student, goofing off in the percussion section and rarely contributing in any positive or constructive manner. I spent two years driving my band director crazy with indifference and annoying behavior. Then, during a ninth grade band concert (in the dark ages, ninth grade was often the last year of junior high), while playing “Blue Ridge Overture” by Frank Erickson, I had a moment of epiphany, realizing that playing timpani on that piece at that time was something that was truly joyful and important to me. I knew at that moment that music was something that would be a guiding force in my life. The concert was in December; in May I won the “Most Improved Band Member Award" and never looked back.