RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • Five Question Friday: Jason Baker (Mississippi State University)

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Feb 21, 2020

    Jason Baker

    Jason Baker has taught percussion at Mississippi State University since 2004, where he coordinates the percussion studio and serves as the percussion arranger for the MSU Marching Band. Prior to that, he completed degrees at the University of North Texas, New England Conservatory of Music, and the University of Connecticut. Dr. Baker has released three solo CDs and two etude books, as well as a number of compositions/arrangements and journal articles. He plays timpani for several regional orchestras and enjoys getting to travel as a percussion soloist and clinician. Solo interests involve commissioning new works for marimba by emerging composers from the American South.

    Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what career could you see yourself having pursued?

    Jason Baker: I could see myself having become a police officer.

    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?

    JB: The people where I live are generally nice. In fact, being around them has made me a friendlier, more patient person. In addition, we have some great restaurants and an amazing women’s basketball team.

    R!S: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

    JB: I’ve been a stutterer since early childhood. Most days I can manage it to where people can’t tell or just think I’m pausing a lot to think about what I’m about to say, and other days it can still be a struggle. As an adult I’ve tried to open up about it so it can maybe inspire other young people with similar challenges.

    R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?

    JB: I like the marimba the most because it combines melody, harmony, and a large range of notes with the physical elements of percussion. It also allows me to play music I enjoy that was written for other instruments.

    R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?

    JB: I grew up in Oakdale, Connecticut. My first musical love was punk and ska music — bands like the Descendents, Bad Religion, and Less Than Jake. I still listen to this music on a daily basis and go to shows when I can.

  • Five Question Friday: Braham Dembar (Ball State University)

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Feb 12, 2020

    Braham DembarBraham Dembar is in his 12th season as principal percussionist for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and sixth year as Assistant Professor of Music Performance (Percussion) at Ball State University. He has performed with several other orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Boston Symphony, and Boston Pops. Prior to his appointment with the ISO, Braham served as principal percussionist for the Ft. Wayne Philharmonic. He received percussion performance degrees from the New England Conservatory (MM) and Boston University (BM) and previously served in similar teaching positions at Marian University and IPFW.

    Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what career could you see yourself having pursued?

    Braham Dembar: I wanted to be a surgeon when I was young and would probably have pursued medicine if I had not become a musician. I have always been interested in science and math, astronomy, computer languages, art, and literature.

    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?

    BD: Indianapolis has one of the best orchestras in the country, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and is home to the Percussive Arts Society, which is an amazing organization of which I am proud to be a member.

    R!S: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

    BD: I am an amateur computer coder, and I developed a custom app that I use to track my teaching. I am fascinated by how things work, so I like to tinker. 

    R!S: What is your all-time favorite album and why?

    BD: One of my all-time favorite albums was Spectrum by Billy Cobham. I used to listen to it every day for years. Cobham had an intense sound and feel. It just always felt good to listen to. 

    R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?

    BD: I grew up in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. This was only about an hour train ride from New York City, so we used to see the New York Philharmonic every weekend when I was very young; I loved it. Leonard Bernstein conducted, and it was always so much fun. He really knew how to talk to kids. When I later got to work with him as a student at Tanglewood, it brought back all of those childhood memories.

  • Five Question Friday: Stuart Marrs (University of Maine)

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Feb 07, 2020

    Stuart MarrsDr. Stuart Marrs’ professional experience spans 50 years and four continents. His principal orchestral positions include the orchestras of Louisville, Bolivia, and Costa Rica, plus diverse freelance experience. Internationally, Dr. Marrs has taught and performed in Singapore, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Russia, Belarus, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, El Salvador, Bolivia, and Costa Rica. Dr. Marrs taught at the National University of Costa Rica, Indiana University, and since 1985 has been teaching at the University of Maine. His most significant publication is Stuart Marrs on Elliott Carter: “Eight Pieces for Four Timpani” – Performance and Analysis, DVD, with some contents viewable on YouTube. 

    Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what career could you see yourself having pursued?

    Stuart Marrs: My first professional career was that of orchestral timpanist/percussionist; academia is a much better life! A non-musical alternative could have been engineering or technology. The latter was just beginning to take off with mainframe computing when I was in college in the 1960s.

    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?

    SM: Maine has a very high quality of life. It is safe, quiet, and beautiful with plenty of outdoor splendor including mountains, forests, and seas. 

    R!S: What's one thing about you that your students would unanimously proclaim?

    SM: I think they would all agree that a Marrs student cannot "coast." In order to get there—wherever "there" is—you have to put in the work and time. I am here to help you make the most of it! 

    R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?

    SM: Timpani are still the royalty in much of the percussion world. In an interview with one of my former students, who is now a freelance percussionist in Boston, he told the students in my studio, via a Skype session, that timpani are the most important instruments to a freelance career. From pick-up orchestra jobs to the recording studio, good timpanists are rare—and valuable! 

    R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?

    SM: I grew up in northern New Jersey. Because of that, my percussion teacher while I was still in high school was Morris Goldenberg. Great orchestral music and jazz (bebop) were everywhere, so you couldn't help but absorb those sounds and culture. As an adolescent at the time, it was just normal to study at the "old" Juilliard during the school year, where Saul Goodman's studio was right next to Goldenberg's, and during the summers, I took my lessons with Goldenberg at Carroll Bratman's NBC studios on West 48th Street, where Harry Breuer was an ever-present figure. He was a very kind man who I would only later learn was an early xylophone legend! While warming up for my lessons with Goldenberg, he would coach me on his arrangements of xylophone ditties I had for assignments. Goldenberg would often take me with him to the set of the TV game show Concentration, hosted by Hugh Downs, where he played the little xylophone riff intro and some sound effects during the show. By rule of Local 802 contract, this music had to be live for every show. I was very fortunate!

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Percussive Arts Society
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Indianapolis, IN 46204
T: (317) 974-4488
F: (317) 974-4499
E: percarts@pas.org