RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • Five Question Friday: Jillian Baxter (Albany State University)

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jul 31, 2020

    Jillian BaxterDr. Jillian Baxter serves as Assistant Professor of Music at Albany State University and is a native of North Augusta, S.C. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University, her master’s degree from Belmont University in Nashville Tenn., and her doctorate from the University of Georgia under the direction of Timothy K. Adams. Dr. Baxter began her career as a classical pianist and later added the study of jazz and world music in piano and percussion. In addition to teaching at the college level, she has taught middle school and high school general music, theory, and choir. In her spare time, Dr. Baxter writes motivational literature, percussion music and articles, and enjoys playing freelance and as a church musician.

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

    Jillian Baxter: I would be a writer, because I love to write short stories and have always thought about writing a book or compilation. I have collections of stories I have written over the years, and maybe one day I will see about getting some of those in circulation. 

    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: At Albany State University, we have a wonderful camaraderie among our divisions and faculty. Within out Visual and Performing Arts Department we actively work together to collaborate and do interdisciplinary events with music, visual arts, theatre, and dance all the time. We like to have students be well-rounded in the arts! 

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

    JB: Most of my students would proclaim that I am very approachable. I like to create an environment where all students feel comfortable asking me questions and can truly take charge of their own education. My office door is always open, and most students stop by multiple times a week just to say hi or update me on how they are progressing. They also love to come in and play small snippets of what they are working on before their lesson day.

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

    JB: At first my favorite percussion instrument was the marimba, probably because it was so similar to the piano, which I also played. Over the years I have rotated through being centered on snare drum, then multi percussion, then timpani and vibraphone. It has changed so much because I am so fascinated with the multiple timbres that can be achieved by each family of instruments. If I had to choose my favorite right now... I am on a timpani and vibraphone rotation. I choose these because so much literature has come out in the last 5–10 years expounding on the sounds that can be enhanced other than with traditional playing (e.g., rim/center/normal, playing with recordings, pitch bends, and other instrument combinations with the instrument).

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

    JB: I grew up in North Augusta, South Carolina. My first instrument was the piano, which I began at age five. My mom's best friend told her it looked like I had piano hands, and she wanted to teach piano to me. I fell in love with the instrument. In middle school, I actually wanted to play the clarinet with my best friend, but my band director told me I needed to play percussion instead. I was disappointed until I got my first percussion kit. After that I was a percussionist for life!

  • Five Question Friday: Bonnie Whiting (University of Washington)

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jul 24, 2020

    Bonnie Whiting

    Bonnie Whiting performs new experimental music, seeking out projects that involve the speaking percussionist, improvisation, and non-traditional notation. Recent work includes performances at the John Cage Centennial Festival in Washington D.C., solo appearances with the National Orchestra of Turkmenistan, performances on the original Harry Partch instrumentarium, and as a Mellon Creative Fellow on projects involving the speaking percussionist, IoT technologies, and Artificial Intelligence. Her debut album, featuring a solo-simultaneous realization of John Cage's “45´ for a speaker” and "27´10.554´´ for a percussionist” was released on the Mode Records label in 2017. Whiting has performed with some of the country’s leading new-music groups, including Ensemble Dal Niente, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and red fish blue fish percussion group. She is Chair of Percussion Studies and Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Washington.

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

    Bonnie Whiting: I love being outdoors and doing wilderness camping, hiking, and distance running. I could see myself as a park ranger, or working in a field related to climate justice or preservation.

    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?

    BW: Seattle is a thriving, world-class city in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. The wilderness is at our doorstep, so it’s quite feasible to enjoy a very remote day outside and then a night on the town, featuring incredible music, food, and nightlife. Furthermore, the University of Washington is one of the nation’s top research universities. It’s inspiring to work on a campus every day with truly engaged students and faculty who are working to make our world a better place.

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

    BW: I think the students would agree that, for me, sound and touch are the most important elements of our art form. If it doesn’t sound good—if you don’t play with beautiful tone—we’ll interrogate it and work until it does. On a lighter note, last Halloween, the studio came up with a spot-on group costume, dressing as me! Black pants or leggings plus colorful scarves. They nailed it.

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

    BW: I have a pretty incredible collection of found-object instruments, and in some ways my bins of old, resonant, pot lids are more valuable to me than my marimba. I love building setups from various materials and engaging in the problem-solving process of multi-percussion playing.

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

    BW: I grew up in Ortonville, Michigan, and my mother says that I did sit on the floor and bang on pots and pans as a kid. I started my artistic life as a dancer, and have always found ways to integrate movement and the body into my work as a musician.

  • Five Question Friday: Michelle Humphreys (Towson University)

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jul 17, 2020

    Michelle HumphreysMichelle Humphreys is a percussionist who specializes in music of the Baroque and modern eras, with frequent expeditions into music that falls between. She performs and records with Opera Lafayette, Tempesta di Mare, Washington Bach Consort, National Cathedral Baroque Orchestra, Boston Early Music Festival, Three Notch'd Road, and Floyds Row, and she can be heard on 11 major-label recordings with Naxos and Chandos Records. A dedicated educator, Michelle is Assistant Professor of Percussion at Towson University and serves on the artist faculty of National Music Festival. In between teaching, rehearsing, and performing, Michelle enjoys long walks, cycling, and petting the neighborhood dogs. 

    Rhythm! Scene: What other jobs, music or otherwise, did you have prior to your current university position? 

    Michelle Humphreys: One can have many different careers within the broad field of percussion, and I certainly have! I played professionally in rock bands from the age of 15; I grew up near a beach town, and there were many nightclubs. In my 20s, I primarily performed contemporary chamber music. I spent 10 years as Principal Percussionist of Baltimore Opera Company and now specialize in historically informed percussion, which is where the drum set player, the chamber musician, and the orchestral player within me all finally come together in a unified way! I have also worked a lot of non-music jobs—serving ice cream, selling bets at horse-racing tracks, and even as a marketing assistant at an oil corporation. I recommend joining the workforce as early as possible; there is much to learn about life that doesn't show up in the practice room or onstage.

    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?

    MH: There is something special about the energy on the Towson University campus. I felt it when I was an undergrad student and I feel it now. Perhaps it's the red-tailed hawks that have lived on our campus for decades, generation after generation; it is always exciting to see them.

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

    MH: That I am obsessed with rhythmic subdivision. I believe that the space between the notes establishes the groove at least as much as the notes do, and that we always need to feel the pulse within the pulse.

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

    MH: Wow, that is a hard question! It changes from time to time, but right now it's a clay doumbek my friend Steve Wright made. It has a beautiful sound, and when I come home after a long day, it feels very centering to play it and it makes me happy and calm.

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

    MH: I grew up in Salisbury, which is on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, separated from the rest of the state by the Chesapeake Bay. There are rivers, farms, forests, and streams in every direction, with the bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Growing up in a place surrounded by water and natural beauty shaped me, and will always be a part of who I am.

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