Carl Dixon teaches percussion and directs a percussion ensemble at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He is the Musical Director of the Boulder Samba School and performs with the Brazilian music band Ginga. Carl is the Principal Percussionist of the Central City Opera and Fort Collins Symphony, percussionist with Opera Colorado, and has performed with the Colorado Symphony, Colorado Ballet, Boulder Philharmonic, and Colorado Springs Philharmonic orchestras, many musical theater productions, and several samba schools, blocos, and bands in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2018, Carl founded Virada Drums, a company that imports and distributes authentic quality percussion instruments from Brazil.
Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a percussionist and educator, what career could you see yourself having pursued?
Carl Dixon: I would be designing and building things. I’ve always liked fixing things, working with my hands, and finding ways to solve puzzles. I end up doing a fair amount of this within my career, building and fixing drums, planning logistics for shows and concerts, learning or arranging new music, and recording music.
R!S: As a freelance artist, what's one of the weirdest gigs you've taken or oddest jobs you've had outside the industry?
CD: I’ve been fortunate to be working solely in the music industry since I decided to be a professional musician. But as a freelance musician, some gigs I’ve done would probably qualify as odd to some of my colleagues in other areas of my career. Wielding the Mahler hammer, walking backwards for miles conducting a Bateria in a parade, playing in costume on an opera stage… those are just regular parts of a varied freelance percussion career.
R!S: What's one thing most people don’t know about you?
CD: A lot of people I play music with or who hear me play don’t know I plays other kinds of music. Some people who know me as an orchestral musician don’t know I also direct a samba school or play jazz, and some people who see me play with a band don't know I play marimba or timpani. Having experience with a lot of different instruments and musical styles gives me valuable perspective when I’m playing and teaching.
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
CD: I always say that the pandeiro is a great deserted-island drum. It is small, portable, and extremely musically versatile. There are always new things to try out and learn with the drum, and you can take it anywhere.
R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
CD: I grew up in Wisconsin and played the piano for many years before starting percussion in high school, which helped me learn a lot about music at a young age. The nearest university was the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which just happened to have a great percussion program.