Got nerves on stage? Meet Noa Kageyama, performance psychologist

Are you one of those performers whose teeth start chattering just prior to taking the stage? Or maybe your hands just get clammy and you find it hard not to add a little shake to that Schubert?  On Wednesday and Thursday, October 9 and 10, Dr. Noa Kageyama, a Juilliard-based performance psychologist, will visit the School of Music to offer his insights into how to conquer–or at least quell–those anxieties, not only found among musicians but all people who find themselves in front of a crowd.

Calling his talks “The Psychological Skills of Top Performers,” Kageyama will offer two evening workshops and a colloquium. Workshops will be from 7 to 9 pm in Morphy Hall, and the colloquium will be October 10 from noon to 1 pm in Mills Hall. The events, which are sponsored by the university’s Vilas trust, are fee and open to the public. For students interested in a more personal conversation, Dr. Kageyama will also be available for individual coaching sessions.

On Thursday, October 10 at 8:40 am, Dr. Kageyama will also appear on WORT radio as a guest of Tony Casteneda, a host of the “8 O’Clock Buzz.”

In Japan, Kageyama started as a violin student, studying with the legendary Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, founder of the Suzuki Method of instruction, and took his studies through college with considerable success. But he also experienced considerable frustration.

“Along the way, I learned all about discipline, sacrifice, and what it takes to be successful,” he writes on his blog, The Bulletproof Musician. “But I also came to see that this wasn’t quite enough. Despite my successes, I struggled with inconsistency and felt that my playing often fell short of what I knew I was capable of. It was frustrating to play so well in rehearsals and then sound like a different person in performances and auditions.” At Juilliard, he attended a class taught by a sports psychologist, Dr. Don Greene, who helped Kageyama to consider a new way to think about performance. Kageyama wound up with a master’s degree in performance from Juilliard and a doctorate in psychology, and opened up a practice with the goal to answer the question:  “Why do some people thrive under pressure while others choke?”

We asked Dr. Kageyama a few questions about what’s he’s learned along with way, and what he might present here at UW-Madison.

So you are a “performance psychologist.” Was there even a field of PP when you were just starting out?
Well, the field of sport psychology has been around for quite some time, but for most of its history has been centered around athletes. In the last 20 years or so, there has been increased interest in the application of sport psychology principles and techniques to other “performers” like musicians, public speakers, even Wall Street traders. So as the field has expanded, some have taken to referring to it as “performance psychology” as opposed to sport psychology, but it’s really the same thing.

Noa Kageyama
Noa Kageyama

On your blog, you mention a man at Juilliard named Don Greene who taught the PEM class. You said it was illuminating. Were there a lot of Juilliard students who actually needed that class?
To be honest – and this is not at all a knock on Juilliard students by any means – we all did. We all want to play our best all the time, and so few of us do on a consistent basis. I used to assume that this was just how things were, that performances would always be somewhat hit or miss. I didn’t realize that there were specific physical, mental, and emotional skills that consistently great performers had learned and mastered. We all took away different things from the class, but the coolest thing was to walk off stage one day, and just realize that you totally “get it.” As in, you totally understand exactly what you have to do physically, what you have to think about, and focus on that leads to great, memorable (and even enjoyable) performances.

Did you ever arrive at an answer to your question: “Why do some people thrive under pressure while others choke?” Does an answer exist?
I could get into more complex, in-depth explanations, but the simple answer is that there are certain mental, physical, and emotional states that are conducive to peak performance. The athlete (or musician) who can get into those states on demand maximizes the likelihood of thriving under pressure. The performer who doesn’t know what these states are, or how to get into them at will, and is dependent on chance and circumstance, is going to be more likely to fall short of their abilities when the pressure is on.

Are there some principles that apply to all people on stage?
Absolutely. Sport psychologists tend to focus on a common set of key skills that are pretty universal to all folks in a performance setting – whether it’s a solo, a presentation, or a monologue.

These include skills like anxiety regulation, confidence, focus, resilience, and understanding how to prepare the right way for the specific demands of a performance.

I knew friends way back in the early ’80s who enrolled in Toastmasters as a way to become more comfortable on stage, not usually performing arts people, however.  Is this the same idea?
Toastmasters can be a very helpful experience. What’s most helpful is the regular exposure to performance-like conditions. Having to get up in front of people and perform (or speak, in this case) on a regular basis gives you an opportunity to develop stronger performance skills, and also helps you become more comfortable with performance situations. Like any other skill, we get better at performing, by practicing performing.

What is your thought on the use of beta-blockers as a way to diminish nerves prior to critical performances? This has apparently become very common in the world of music.
I don’t take as hard-line a stance as some others do, and don’t get into the ethics or morality of it, but I have never recommended beta blockers, and at the end of the day, beta blockers will probably hold people back from performing their absolute best.

Why? Well, beta blockers will generally address the physiological response, but in most studies, the cognitive aspect of anxiety – i.e. the worries, doubts, fears, second-guessing, the analysis, judgment, etc. is more predictive of performance than the physical aspect. So even if you negate the physiological response, many will still be sabotaged by the mental response.

Furthermore, there’s a common misconception that we perform our best when we’re calm. We might be more comfortable when we’re calm, but most performers (and athletes – even in really high-precision sports like pistol shooting), actually have their best performances at a moderate to high level of activation.

When you coach a student individually, how do you first start? Do you evaluate first, or observe? Are you able to glean an understanding of a student’s performance problems simply by observation? Are students even truly self-aware at such an early stage?
We always start with a mental skills assessment to figure out what their mental strengths and weaknesses are. Like how do they recover from mistakes? Do they have trouble staying in the present? Do they get distracted easily? Do they get tentative and overly careful under pressure?

Then it’s a matter of developing their weaker areas just as they would in a regular music lesson, through a combination of observation and Q&A and experimenting with with different strategies and techniques.

What are your plans for your workshops and colloquium in Madison? Are your workshops similar to master classes, in which students are pre-selected to appear on stage and perform, then are evaluated by the teacher?
That might be interesting!
The plan is to hold a couple larger workshops, where we will work on these skills as a group. Some students will volunteer and be “guinea pigs” whose mental skills will be tested in a good-natured sort of way, but ultimately almost all of the students will play and learn a few key mental skills they can take away and put to use immediately (or at least with a little practice).

I also believe I will be working individually with some folks to do a little more in-depth personalized coaching.

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Stretching sonic boundaries with Third Coast Percussion

To most of us acclimated to the world of strings and symphonies, the concept of “percussion ensemble” is somewhat foreign. Percussionists play drums in rock’n roll bands and the timpani in an orchestra. Or, at least that’s what many have thought.

Third Coast Percussion.
Third Coast Percussion.
Photo by Saverio Truglia

That’s slowly changing, however. In Madison, we have our own Clocks in Motion, an ensemble formed only in 2011 with its roots in UW-Madison.  And in Chicago, the group Third Coast Percussion, formed in 2005, has vaulted to the fore, with a brand-new residency at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center and three CDs, including a retrospective of John Cage and the new “Unknown Symmetry,” which contains a work, “Common Patterns in Uncommon Time,” commissioned for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Taliesin.

Third Coast will visit Madison in October 9 and 10. Events include a seminar on commissioning new works and the business of chamber music: booking performances, writing grants and professionalism (Oct. 9, noon to 1:15 pm, Morphy Hall),  followed by a free concert the same evening in Mills Hall at 7:30 pm. On the following day, they’ll offer a master class from 12:15 to 2:15 pm in Room 1321.  All events are free and open to the public and are sponsored by the university’s Vilas Trust.

The program includes Fractalia by Owen Clayton Condon (a former member of TCP); Mallet Quartet by Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Reich; Third Construction by John Cage; and Resounding Earth (commissioned work) by Augusta Read Thomas.

[Please note: Clocks in Motion will open its season this Saturday, Sept. 21, with a free interactive concert in Mills Hall at 3 pm. Bring your keys, cell phone and coin stash! ]

“Third Coast Percussion is one of the most exciting and successful young percussion groups in the United States,” says Tony Di Sanza, professor of percussion and sponsor of TCP’s visit. The members of Third Coast Percussion —Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore—hold degrees in music performance from Northwestern University, the Yale School of Music, the Eastman School of Music, the New England Conservatory, and Rutgers University.

We asked David Skidmore a few questions about TCP.

Can you tell me some history of percussion ensembles?

A very good question! The concept of a group of musicians playing percussion instruments goes back hundreds, maybe thousands of years to African drum ensembles and countless other indigenous cultures for whom percussion was all-important. The idea of a percussion ensemble such as ours, which reads notated music and is more akin to a string quartet than a culturally-specific drum ensemble, is much more recent. The first music for our type of ensemble was written in the 1920s and 30s. John Cage formed a touring percussion ensemble in the 1930s and 40s that was short-lived. In 1962 the first full-time professional percussion ensemble was formed. This group, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, is still playing concerts. A wonderful ensemble called Nexus was formed in Canada in 1971, and they also still play concerts. More recently, So Percussion formed in 1999. To my knowledge, So Percussion and Third Coast Percussion are the only two percussion ensembles in the states who employ their musicians full-time, which is a big step towards continuing to raise the level of performance and visibility of this exciting art form.

“Percussionists-in-residence” seems like a new concept. Are there others like you at other universities?

Actually our title, technically, is “ensemble-in-residence.” While it goes without saying that our chosen instruments go a long way toward defining who we are as an ensemble, our relationship with the University of Notre Dame and their DeBartolo Performing Arts Center focuses more broadly on the relationship between the performing arts and the campus at large. We are not teaching a studio full of percussion students (Notre Dame already has a wonderful percussion instructor); instead we are performing around campus and in the surrounding community, creating collaborative projects that link the performing arts at ND to the college of engineering and college of arts and letters, and in general spreading the word about the amazing creative work being done in the performing arts at Notre Dame.

I imagine that being a percussionist in an orchestra is a bit like being a trumpeter (except when playing Mahler!); you can practically read a book while waiting for your next measure. Is this one of the reasons driving the formation of percussion ensembles?

Haha – yes. We have many friends, mentors, and colleagues who make a wonderful living playing in symphony orchestras as percussionists, but for the four of us in Third Coast, chamber music was a more natural fit. It’s true that you play “more notes” in a chamber ensemble than in a symphonic percussion section, and you get to be master of your own destiny both artistically and administratively. In other words, we have much more of a say about the music we play, the concerts we play, the projects that we undergo than the average symphonic percussionist. We also have to do all the work though!

Can you tell us a bit about the composers on your program?

Owen Clayton (Clay) Condon was a member of Third Coast Percussion for many years and writes beautiful and exciting music for percussion. Much of this music is inspired by his other passion: composing electronic music, which he has done in collaboration with video artists, sculpture, and architecture. Steve Reich is perhaps one of America’s best known living classical composers. He was stuck early on with the label of “minimalism,” but this doesn’t always do justice to the incredibly groovy, exciting, and powerful music that he writes, which happens to work very well on percussion instruments. John Cage was likewise one of the most important creative figures of the 20th century. Cage’s influence spread beyond just music to all of the arts, where he was part of a shift in how artists think about every aspect of creating a new work of art. Finally, Augusta Read Thomas is one of the most sought-after composers working today. She was composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for nearly 10 years, and has written music for most of the major orchestras of the world. But her chamber music is equally powerful, and the piece we are performing of hers entitled Resounding Earth was commissioned for us and premiered by us last September. It is her first piece of music for percussion ensemble, and features over 125 bells from all over the world.

And the master class?
We plan to frame it around the process of commissioning Augusta Read Thomas, as we will be featuring her piece Resounding Earth on the concert. We can hit on many important aspects of commissioning and one example of how a timeline of commissioning a work can unfold, from the initial idea to fund raising, discussing parameters of the piece (including what instruments can be used and other logistics), workshopping the piece with the composer during the composition process (a particular focus of ours now stemming directly from the project with Gusty), premiering the piece, recording it, continuing to perform the piece.

New voice professor Elizabeth Hagedorn to debut at SoundWaves

“Why do we so often agree on what is beautiful? Why do we even care about beauty? Can we turn ugliness into beauty?”

Those are the questions asked by Daniel Grabois, assistant professor of horn at the UW-Madison School of Music, whose highly successful SoundWaves” music & science lectures begin a new season on September 26 at 4:30 pm. The events take place in the DeLuca Forum in the WID building (330 N. Orchard Street, at the corner of University Avenue – the Forum is the round area right in the middle of the ground floor). SoundWaves is free and open to the public.

The first event is titled “The Eye and Ear of the Beholder,” and features several guests who will explore these ideas from different perspectives. Visiting assistant professor of voice Elizabeth Hagedorn will demonstrate beauty in a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, a five-part song cycle written in 1901 based on poems written by Friedrich Rückert. She will be accompanied by UW pianist Martha Fischer.

Elizabeth Hagedorn
Elizabeth Hagedorn

The event will be part of the Wisconsin Science Festival, and will also feature chemist, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Roald Hoffmann from Cornell University, who will discuss beauty in science.

SoundWaves combines scientific lectures about the world with live classical music performances. Each event revolves around a theme, exploring it first from many scientific angles and then through the lens of music. The program concludes with a live performance of music related to the evening’s theme.

The science lectures are delivered using language that the curious layman can understand, with a minimum of jargon and formulas. The music lectures, while demanding careful listening, are likewise designed for the layman and not the specialist.

Every SoundWaves event brings UW–Madison scientists from several departments together with UW–Madison School of Music faculty performers to explore a topic that is relevant to our world and our lives.

Says Dan Grabois: “I always like to speak at the events, and I will give a brief talk about dissonance. Many of our audience members are there to learn some science, and they know very little about music but are open to learning more. Probably a lot of these people think they hate dissonance, so I aim to show them how important dissonance is in harmonic motion and in creating character in music.”

NOTE: The second SoundWaves event will be held October 25, 7:30 pm, in the same place; the topic concerns the notion of group behavior, in life and in music. Stay tuned….

SoundWaves curator Daniel Grabois, assistant professor of horn at the UW-Madison School of Music, introduces the May 2013 SoundWaves discussion on “humans and the tools we use.”.

Keeping options open: How alums & Wisconsin natives Stampley & Schmidt found their ways to Broadway

It was a chance meeting and a bright idea, hatched at a summertime party in Madison celebrating a baby’s birth. Voice professor Mimmi Fulmer, former UW Opera director Karlos Moser, and Nathaniel Stampley and proud papa Jamie Schmidt, two alumni now with successful careers on Broadway,  got into a lively chat. Mimmi had a thought: how about a reunion concert this fall?

It was vintage Fulmer: enthusiastic and lively, said Stampley. “She’s been that way since I first met her when I was 16 years old” as a teenager from Whitefish Bay attending the Summer Music Clinic, he said. “She’s an amazing person. Nothing much has changed! Next thing I knew, I was coming to Madison in September,” he added, laughing.

Jamie Schmidt and Nathaniel Stampley,
Jamie Schmidt and Nathaniel Stampley, following a performance of “Lost in the Stars” in 1998. Photo by Carla J. Schmidt.

Over the past fifteen years, Stampley (BM, voice, 2008) and Schmidt (BMusEd & piano, 1996; MM, conducting, 1998) have risen to the top of their professions, Schmidt as a pianist and conductor for singers and musical theater, Stampley as a Broadway singer and actor. Stampley, fresh off a run as the understudy to Norm Lewis’s “Porgy” in the New York City show,  “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess,” was scheduled to play that lead part in the national tour this fall. And Schmidt, who hails from the Madison area, was beginning his third year as the associate conductor for the national tour of “The Lion King.” He could fly in from Pittsburgh, taking a couple of days off from the Lion King. The timing was perfect. They agreed to come.

Nathaniel Stampley
Nathaniel Stampley

So it’s a date. On September 22 and 23, the duo of Stampley and Schmidt will perform a show of Broadway tunes at Mills Hall at the UW-Madison School of Music. It’ll be a reunion of two close friends who first met each other as singers in the former Prof. Robert Fountain’s UW Concert Choir in the mid-1990s, and continued on campus for over three years, Nate singing, Jamie accompanying him on piano. That’s the plan for this one-time show, and they’ll follow the next day with a master class in Music Hall offering tips about music, singing, and careers.

Both events are free and open to the public, and are underwritten by Opera Props, University Opera, and the School of Music.

Mimmi Fulmer has many fond memories of the two young men. “I first heard Nate sing when he was 16 years old, when he was auditioning for a Summer Music Clinic scholarship,” she said, in an email.  “His star power was all there, even at that age: a glowing presence, warm and musical phrasing, and that voice!  He brought that same vitality to his studies at Madison.  I can remember clearly every performance he did in Opera Workshop and with University Opera–you don’t forget that kind of electricity.”

Jamie, who studied piano under Professors Todd Welbourne and Howard Karp, wound up conducting opera almost by accident after former opera director Karlos Moser offered Jamie a fellowship to pursue a masters degree with him.  “It was the chance of a lifetime,” said Jamie. He said yes.

“Jamie did something invaluable to a career: recognize an opportunity and make the most of it,” Prof. Fulmer said. “When he graduated, he had the skills and experience to start his professional career as the founding Music Director for American Girl Place Theaters in Chicago.  Since then, his career has taken him everywhere, as he remains the consummate musician and colleague that we all loved during his student days.”

Jamie and Nate shared a few thoughts about UW-Madison and the world of show business. 

Jamie Schmidt
Jamie Schmidt

Jamie, who had intended to design cars as a mechanical engineer, changed his mind during his senior year of high school:  “By this point, I had missed most audition deadlines to many music schools. The last place I wanted to go was UW-Madison, because I had spent my entire life in Madison, and wanted to get away and be free and be my own man. Fortunately, I had not missed the deadline to audition here, and my piano teacher at the time correctly thought that Todd Welbourne would be the right teacher for me. It was a fortunate, happy accident.”

Nate, on how he wound up in musical theater, as UW offers only opera: “I sort of fell into musical theater. It definitely was not the original plan.”  But after graduating and returning to Milwaukee, he received an offer to return to perform in UW’s show, “Lost in the Stars,” by Kurt Weill, with Jamie conducting. One thing led to another, and he wound up in Chicago doing a variety of shows. “A couple years later, I got a random call for the national tour of ‘Ragtime,'” he said. “They asked, ‘Can you fly to New York?’ I did, and I got the job, in the ensemble. From that show, I got an agent.” By 2005, he was on on Broadway in “The Color Purple.”

Jamie, on his teachers at the School of Music:  “My first four years of undergrad, I studied piano with Todd Welbourne; my final two years of undergrad I studied with Howard Karp, both wonderful teachers who gave me a solid technical and musical foundation at the keyboard. Karlos Moser was the Director of Opera, and he was the sole reason that I stayed on for my graduate work: he secured a Bolz Fellowship which funded my masters degree. His guidance was, and remains, invaluable to me, a true mentor and friend for life. My conducting studies during graduate work were with Jim Smith, one of the more thoughtful, seeking and accomplished musicians I have had the fortune to know and learn from.”

Nate, on how he manages to sing eight shows a week and still preserve his voice: “The biggest thing is rest. You have to get your rest, in order to have a quick turnaround, especially on a two-show day. We literally use our instrument all the time; we don’t have the luxury of putting it in a case. So the equivalent is just to be quiet. But what works for me may not work for everyone. Some people can go out and drink, and sound like a million bucks the next day.”

Jamie Schmidt and Liza Minnelli.
Jamie Schmidt and Liza Minnelli.

Jamie, on what it’s like to work on Broadway:  “When I first began subbing shows on Broadway, I felt like a kid going on the big rollercoaster at Great America for the first time. It is not a university atmosphere, so there is no safety net, no excuse of being a student. You must nail it, or you are not asked to play again. So many things are learned on the fly: how to play a synthesizer with volume and patch change pedals (instead of a piano); how to follow the conductor through a video monitor (and adjust for latency); how to play as a rhythm section member rather than a soloist; and on and on. There are so many talented musicians in New York, of course– it is the ultimate destination for theater.  Every time you play is an audition for someone, somewhere, perhaps years down the road. This was my path to my current position as Associate Conductor with the Lion King national tour; I was associate conductor for the Kennedy Center’s production of Ragtime, and did a lot of vocal coaching with the woman cast as Sarah. A couple of years later, I received a call to interview for Lion King. It turned out that her husband was the former Music Supervisor for Lion King worldwide. The circle of life, truly…”

Jamie, on how he wound up working with the likes of Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters, and how they keep going after so many years on the stage:  “I conducted the Kennedy Center Spring Gala in 2010, and Liza was the emcee. We hit it off, and she hired me to conduct her symphonic tour shortly therafter, which led me to conduct the St. Louis, Atlanta, San Diego, Richmond, Indianapolis and Dallas Symphony Orchestras. She is a born entertainer, and I was excited for the chance to make music with her, especially with orchestras of that caliber. What keeps people like Liza and Bernadette going? I cannot presume to know them intimately, but it seems performing and entertaining is what they know, what they have spent their lives doing. Not to do it would be like not eating, it is what keeps their internal gears running smoothly.”

Asked what advice he’ll offer to aspiring performers, Nate replied: “I honestly believe we all get a shot at making it. The biggest thing is knowing what you want, even if it’s pie in the sky, even if it’s ‘I want to be the lead in a Broadway musical,’ or ‘I want to sing at the Met in ten years.’ Go for it!”

Wallmann & Jazz Studies featured in Downbeat; Di Sanza eats kimchi and plays drums in South Korea

It’s a good time for jazz in Madison! The School of Music’s revitalized Jazz Studies program received a major boost this summer after Chicago-based Downbeat Magazine chose to feature it in their annual “Where to Study Jazz” issue, available in bookstores September 17.

Downbeat Magazine
Downbeat Magazine, Oct. 2013.
Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

Writer Aaron Cohen visited UW this summer to interview Jazz Studies director and assistant professor Johannes Wallmann, who says he is “absolutely thrilled” with the story. Says Frank Alkyer, the publisher of Downbeat:  “We were thrilled to publish it. Susan Lipp, the chairman of Full Compass Systems (and also a board member of the UW-Madison School of Music), is a dear friend in the industry. She invited me up last fall for ‘Jazz Junction,’ a community event in honor of Johannes joining the faculty of UW and the plans for a jazz department. I attended and was blown away by the back story, by donor John Peterson’s generosity, by Johannes and by the local jazz community’s embrace of the new direction the school of music was taking.”

“I knew it would be the cover of our October ‘Where to Study Jazz Guide’ right there and then,” he continued.

An excerpt: “In 2014, Wisconsin will introduce its first Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies program—almost 100 years after the university began offering degrees in music. Meanwhile, the school has benefited from local support, such as a large donation from a local philanthropist earmarked for jazz, and equipment and scholarships provided by local companies like musical instrument retailer Full Compass. New facilities are on the horizon, too, including a $46 million music building to host the university’s concert halls, faculty studios and departmental offices. From all indications, it’s a good time for jazz in the state’s capital.”

Congratulations to Johannes and the UW jazz program!

Meanwhile, last month Tony Di Sanza, professor of percussion, mingled with top percussionists in South Korea as the guests of Akademie Percussion Ensemble (APE), now beginning its 20th year as an ensemble. We asked Tony to write a story about his trip:

Anthony Di Sanza Travels to South Korea to Eat Kimchi (and play a couple of concerts)

“I have been fortunate to be a member of the Galaxy Percussion Group for over ten years.  The group was initially formed to accompany Japanese marimba virtuoso Keiko Abe in the early 2000’s.  After that the ensemble recorded a CD of works featuring marimba solo with percussion trio with American marimbist Linda Maxey.

“Through the years the ensemble has changed shape, depending on the programs being performed and ensembles with which we were collaborating.  At first, the ensemble members were Michael Udow, Roger Braun and myself.  In 2010 the group began a relationship with the Akademie Percussion Ensemble (APE) from Seoul, South Korea.  APE is the premier professional chamber percussion group in South Korea and they also run a tremendous prep program for developing percussionists.  In August 2010, Galaxy traveled to Korea to share a concert tour with APE.  Given the repertoire being discussed for the 2010 tour, we decided to add a 4th member to the ensemble.  Galaxy welcomed Jamie Ryan as our 4th member for the 2010 tour and the group has been a quartet ever since.

“Galaxy Percussion represents three generations of percussionists.  Michael Udow is retired Professor of Percussion at the University of Michigan where Roger and I both studied with him.  Roger studied with Mike as an undergraduate and I as a masters and doctoral student.  I have had the pleasure to learn from Professor Udow for over 20 years as a student and professional.  His influence upon me runs very deep.  Jamie Ryan studied with me at UW as an MM and DMA student and he now serves as Assistant Professor of Percussion at Eastern Illinois University.  In essence, Mike is Jamie’s percussive grandfather.  🙂

“In 2011, Galaxy and APE toured the Midwest United States, including a performance at UW. During the 2011 tour, APE director Kang-Ku Lee invited Galaxy to perform in Seoul for a celebration of APE’s 20th year in 2013!  We, of course, were happy to accept Kang-Ku’s kind invitation.

“Given that Galaxy Percussion members live in myriad parts of the country, rehearsals are done in the days prior to a particular event.  We met in Seoul on Aug 6 and had three days to rehearse our program.  Most of the repertoire we were performing was new to us, so we each needed to be ready for three intense days of rehearsal (with jet lag).  A major portion of Galaxy’s repertoire is music composed by the ensemble members and this program reflected that ethos performing works by Mike, Roger and myself.

“One of the challenges for the ensemble in rehearsals is not getting lost in laughter.  The group really gets along well (which is so important when traveling) and has fun making music and hanging out.  Sharing the program with APE and Galaxy was a Swiss percussion quartet named QuaDrums.  Working with Hans, Thomas, Chris and Rafi was complete blast!  Lovely musicians and wonderful people.

Akademie Percussion Ensemble, QuaDrums & Galaxy in rehearsal, South Korea, August 2013.
Akademie Percussion Ensemble, QuaDrums & Galaxy in rehearsal, South Korea, August 2013.

“The first concert took place on Aug 9 and included each group performing about 20 minutes of repertoire and closing with two fun works combining all three ensembles.  Despite it being a bit like a sauna in the hall, the concert went very well (with a full house attending) and we looked forward to having Saturday and Sunday off.  Being that QuaDrums and Galaxy were staying in the same hotel it was easy for us to occasionally share meals and enjoy long conversations with libations.

“On Monday, we rehearsed most of the day and on Tuesday moved into the Seoul Arts Center for the evening concert.  The Arts Center is the most high profile concert hall in South Korea and is a tremendous place in which to perform.  This was the gala event celebrating APE’s 20th year and we were all excited to perform for the large audience.  The concert came off without a hitch and after packing up the party began in a local pub.  At 2:00am QuaDrum, having to head to the airport at 5:30am, decided to call it a night.  Galaxy stayed until about 3:00am and bid goodnight to our Korean hosts, who, as it turns out, continued the celebration until dawn!

“Having had a wonderful time with our old friends (APE) and new friends (QuaDrums), Galaxy caught various flights from Seoul home.  Amazingly, as I was boarding the plane, preparing for the 12-hour flight, I was told that the airline had oversold the flight and I was being bumped up to business class.  What a tragedy!  While I had a luxurious flight from Asia, Roger got stuck in Toronto and had to spend a night in a hotel after ten hours of waiting in the airport.  I felt bad for Roger.”