Gwendolyn Dease is Professor of Percussion and Chair of the Percussion Area at Michigan State University. During the summer, she serves as the Principal Percussionist with the Brevard Music Center Orchestra and the Assistant Director of the Brevard Jazz Institute. Passionate about many areas within percussion, she spends most of her performance time playing solo recitals, chamber music, and orchestral percussion. Dease went to high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy, did her undergraduate degree in Percussion Performance at the Eastman School of Music, and holds two Master of Music degrees from the Peabody Conservatory and the Yale School of Music.
Rhythm! Scene: What other jobs, music or otherwise, did you have prior to your current university position?
Gwendolyn Dease: When I was finishing school, the other career path I was pursuing was that of a full-time orchestral percussionist. I was fortunate to be offered the job at Michigan State while I was finishing my master’s degree at Yale and decided to take the professor path, since being a professor allows me keep my hands in many genres of percussion simultaneously.
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?
GD: Michigan is a beautiful state to live in! East Lansing has lot of great parks, a cool zoo, and the famous MSU Dairy store. I also love that I am less than a two-hour drive to many Lake Michigan beaches and sand dunes.
R!S: What’s one thing about you that your students would unanimously proclaim?
GD: Probably that they know I really like to play anything by Alejandro Vinao and J.S. Bach. Also, that at Michigan State, the percussionists work VERY HARD, but we have fun too, and the studio is a very supportive place!
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
GD: My favorite instrument is very dependent on what piece I am playing. Right now, I am going to say bass drum. I was super excited to play the bass drum part on “The Rite of Spring” this summer at Brevard, and I am hoping we get to play it when we return for our season next summer. I also have a lot of fun playing marimba and snare drum.
R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
GD: I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and I started playing piano and violin using the Suzuki method when I was two years old. I was in a very rigorous Suzuki violin program with a teacher who had grown up in Japan and studied with Dr. Suzuki himself!