Dr. Lee Hinkle’s percussion playing has been called “rock-steady” by The Washington Post. He is the principal percussionist with the 21st Century Consort and he made his Carnegie Hall solo debut in 2014 as a concerto soloist. Hinkle’s other notable performances have included the National Symphony Orchestra as well as tours with Bebe Neuwirth, Bernadette Peters, and the American Wind Symphony Orchestra. He has performed as a soloist at three PASICs. From 2009 to 2021, Hinkle served on the percussion faculty at the University of Maryland. He was recently appointed Assistant Professor of Percussion at Penn State University and will begin his new position in August 2021. Hinkle also serves on the PAS New Music/Research Committee and was the President of the MD/DE PAS Chapter from 2014 to 2021. To learn more about Lee, visit www.leehinkle.com.
Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a percussionist and educator, what career could you see yourself having pursued?
Lee Hinkle: I'm almost certain I would have gone into the natural sciences. My father is an ecologist/botanist, and my mother is a microbiologist/chemist. Because of their enthusiasm about the natural world, I have always been fascinated by nature and have become quite the outdoors junky. I'm a PADI Open Water Scuba Diving Instructor, have cycled unsupported on a touring bicycle across the United States (4,000 miles on the TransAmerica Trail), and have hiked the GR20 in Europe (the “hardest hike in Europe” over 112 miles and 40,000 feet of elevation gain). I'm obviously always looking for excuses to get outside.
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?
LH: I worked for two summers when I was in high school/undergraduate school as the Crew Leader for the Public Land Corps (part of the National Park Service) at Canaveral National Seashore in Florida. Canaveral National Seashore is part of Kennedy Space Center, so we had to have special security clearance and got to drive around in this beat-up old van full of axes, machetes, and other gardening/landscaping tools. Our job was to cut firebreaks in the Florida wilderness and do all other manner of hard labor projects for Canaveral National Seashore. Working in a full mosquito suit in 95-degree weather on the sand dunes at the beach cutting back brush from the wooden walkways from the parking lot to the beach is not for the faint of heart! Probably the most exciting thing we did on the job was to rescue a nest full of baby sea turtles that had gotten confused when they hatched and tried to cross the busy beach road in the opposite direction of the water. We got the call over our radios and made a beeline for their location. We gently picked them up and put them in shoeboxes and then walked them over the dunes to the beach. It was an amazing moment!
R!S: What's one thing most people don’t know about you?
LH: For some reason, I can blow air out of my eye sockets by plugging my nose and then exhaling against my closed nose and mouth. It makes a weird squeaking noise too. I've been able to do it since I was a kid. It's a really strange feeling and a great way to scare people at a party!
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
LH: I spend the vast majority of my practice time on the marimba. I started out my musical life on piano, violin, and voice, so pitched percussion has always been near and dear to my heart. My favorite percussion instrument, however, is the drum set. Any time I have some extra practice time I sit behind the kit and have fun.
R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
LH: I grew up in Titusville, Florida, next to Kennedy Space Center. My dad worked at Kennedy Space Center and back before 9/11, "take your son to work day" meant I got to go to the Vehicle Assembly Building (where they used to store the shuttles during the Space Shuttle Program). At the time, the VAB was the biggest building on the planet. It's so big that it creates its own micro-climates, and from time to time it starts raining inside the building because clouds accumulate in the roof area and then begin to precipitate. Crazy stuff! I was also in a rock band with my sister and a bunch of her friends in middle school and high school. We were called the Pre-Jammers. No, I'm not kidding; that was our name. We were pretty good too!