Dr. 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!