Michelle 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.