Zeltsman Marimba Festival 2015 will be at Rutgers University

The 13th season of the Zeltsman Marimba Festival will be held at Rutgers University at the Mason Gross School of the Arts on June 28th – July 11th, 2015. This year’s ZMF will feature the largest ever faculty and guest list including: Pius Cheung, Emmanuel Sejourne, Julie Spencer, Gordon Stout, Mike Truesdell, Jack Van Geem, and Nancy Zeltsman.

Guest composers include Paul Lansky, Daniel Levitan, Steven Mackey, Andrew Thomas, and Ivan Trevino.

One additional option is to attend the “ZMF Weekend” from July 3rd – July 5th. This option is for those who cannot make it for the entire 2-weeks but still want to attend the 3 evening concerts and 10 talks/masterclasses. You cannot beat this incredible price for what you are getting for this weekend of fantastic marimba performances.

Registration opens on February 1, 2015 so start planning for a great summer in New Jersey now!

Marimba One Izzy

Marimba One has launched a new marimba called the Izzy.  Their press release states the following:

The culmination of 30 years of acoustic research, engineering and craftsmanship, this is simply the finest marimba ever built.  Sound innovations which have also been integrated in all marimba one©marimbas include resonator harmonic filters for a smoother, more balanced sound, updated resonator tuning to maximize sound potential, and voicing options on both our resonators and keyboards.

The complete re-design of our frames ranges from combination aluminum and wood rails with laser engraving to the incredibly durable frame hardware. Our ultra-smooth pneumatic height adjustment system is functional and durable–never slips, easy to use.  We only use US-grade certified hardware on our marimbas which are 100% made in Arcata, California, USA.

The marimba one Izzy™ is named after Izzy Samuels, son of marimba one© founder Ron Samuels.

I was able to play on one of the Izzy models at the Zeltsman Marimba Festival this summer. I really like what they have done to the frame to make it more sturdy. This is the choice that I would make if I were in a school or somewhere where you are moving the marimba between rooms. It has a darker “black” look on the rails which is a combination of aluminum and wood and therefore saves you a little money compared with the 3000 series Height Adjustable choice. The soloist and 3000 series continue to have the tuning nobs while the new Izzy does not.

You can choose this option by visiting the marimba one “build your dream marimba” link at:




“To the shadow, light” (world premiere)

One of my goals as a marimbist is to foster the creation of new marimba pieces whenever I can. There have been many great projects on Kickstarter that I have been a part of over the years but I have always wanted to do a commission by myself. For the past two years I have been working on just that. This is the story of the marimba solo “To the shadow, light” by Guillo Espel.

Back in 2009 I attended the Zeltsman Marimba Festival. During one of the listening sessions William Moersch played a marimba solo called “Zamba para escuchar tu silencio” by Guillo Espel. I thought that this was one of the most beautiful marimba solos I have ever heard (similar to the first time I heard “Land” by Takatsugu Muramatsu).

I heard this solo performed live by Angel Frette at the Marimba 2010 International Festival and Conference and knew that I had to find out who the composer was. A quick search led me to Guillo and we begin emailing about the solo, the quartet arrangement, and about his other pieces.

I didn’t have the marimba chops to perform “Zamba” myself, so I asked Jenny Klukken if she wanted to perform it. She has played it a number of times and a wonderful recording was posted on my blog in 2012.

I knew I had found a great composer, and so I asked Guillo if he would be willing to commission a new piece. Even though he is a guitarist, I knew from his previous marimba solo that he knew how to write for the marimba and make it sound beautiful. He agreed, and to my surprise, finished the piece in a couple of months. Both Jenny and I started working on “To the shadow, light” and continued to email with Guillo with updates and questions.

It was late in 2013 when I saw the announcement for ZMF 2014 and I knew that this would be the perfect place for the world premiere. Sometimes you just need a hard deadline to really focus and complete a task.

At the Zeltsman Marimba Festival, I was given invaluable advice by Nanae Mimura, Jack Van Geem, Laurent Warnier, and Nancy Zeltsman. I performed the world premiere at the 5-hour marathon concert on Saturday July 12, 2014 at Memorial Chapel on the Lawrence University campus. The program notes are located here, and the recording is below:


I wanted to personally thank all of the ZMF faculty from 2009 and 2014 and especially William Moersch for introducing me to Guillo’s music. Another big thank you to Guillo for taking the time to write a new marimba piece. If anyone is interested in performing “To the shadow, light” please contact me via email –  marimba [at] jeffsass [dot] com.


Zeltsman Marimba Festival 2014

I am thrilled to be returning to ZMF (Zeltsman Marimba Festival) starting this weekend in Appleton, Wisconsin. There are a couple of things to watch for the next couple weeks through this blog, my Twitter feed @jeffsass, and on my Facebook page. It is going to be a steady stream of marimba information and news so sit back and enjoy the ride.

ZMF is a two-week long event where participants from all over the world come together to immerse themselves in all things marimba. The festival includes a number of concerts (some of which are free), and Nancy and the organizers have put together a list of all of the concerts on their Facebook page:


All of the concerts will be fantastic, but I am personally looking forward to the final 5 hour marathon concert where all of the attendees participate in. This is a great opportunity to see what the marimbists “out there” are playing. Whether it is a new piece or a marimba classic, there is always a fresh take and a “hidden gem” to look for. This year, I hope to add to the fun a world premiere of a solo entitled “To the shadow, light” by Guillo Espel. For anyone that is in Appleton, Wisconsin feel free to stop by and enjoy all of the wonderful concerts. Check back during the next two weeks to see what is happening at #ZMF2014.

Marco Schirripa Percussive Arts Society Blog and Performances

I met Marco Schirripa at the Zeltsman Marimba Festival in 2009. On one of the first days, Beverly Johnson held a master class and Marco was the student that performed. He played Merlin by Andrew Thomas, which most marimbists would classify as a cornerstone of modern marimba literature. My jaw literally dropped when I heard his performance. For such a difficult work, he was able to make it look easy and sound fantastic. We became friends at the festival and I have been following his career as he finished his study with Gordon Stout as well as Kevin Bobo. As part of his work at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Marco has been doing a number of blog posts on the Percussive Arts Society web site.

His recent (and final) blog post entitled “Its not about that you can play its about how you play“, talks about how he prepares musically when he practices. If was also great that he specifically mentioned how he prepared for that performance of Merlin at ZMF 2009. I have been working on a new premiere that is quite a bit above my skill level and his insight around not just playing the notes but making musical phrases is a great point that younger students should pay attention to.

I would encourage everyone to read all of his blog posts. I have linked a set of them below:





You can also find follow his performances on his YouTube channel where he recently posted the following performance of Sejourne’s “Concerto for Marimba and Strings”:

Congratulations Marco on all that you have accomplished in your career so far and I look forward to hearing more from you in the future!

Zeltsman Marimba Festival 2014 This July in Appleton, Wisconsin

I was thrilled to attend the Zeltsman Marimba Festival in 2009 and be a co-sponsor on the Intermediate Masterworks for Marimba commissions which brought 24 new marimba solos into existance. I am happy to announce that I will be returning this year as a participant to ZMF 2014 this June 29-July 12.

The early registration discount will expire in 3 days (and that saves you $200). If you are thinking of going to ZMF this year, hurry and register now. This year’s faculty include Anders Astrand, Jean Geoffroy, Nanae Mimura, Dane Richeson, Jack Van Geem, Nancy Zeltsman, Jonathan Singer, Mike Truesdell, Laurent Warnier, Xi (Rachel) Zhang, Alejandro Ruiz, and guest presenter Rick Mattingly.

I am also excited to announce that I have commissioned a new marimba solo and will be giving the premiere at ZMF 2014. More details on that piece will be posted to this blog this spring. The composer I am working with is Guillo Espel from Argentina.

For all details and registration information, please head over to http://www.zmf.us. I look forward to hearing who else is attending this year!

Zeltsman Marimba Festival 2013 in Arcata, CA June 30 – July 13

The following press release is from Nicole Riggs of Marimba One.


For Immediate Release

Arcata, CA

February 26, 2013

Coming to Arcata June 30 – July 13, 2013 are dozens of the world’s top players of the marimba, a large wooden percussion instrument with resonators, resembling a giant xylophone. They will perform eight marimba concerts at HSU and at the Arcata Playhouse during the two-week festival.

The marimbists are appearing at the Zeltsman Marimba Festival but they are also coming to the workshop in the redwoods of what is arguably the premier builder of marimbas, Marimba One, and its founder-owner Ron Samuels.

For more than 25 years, Samuels and his staff have been handcrafting the finest instruments, combining refined listening that understands sound with scientifically precise engineering skills.

That’s why more than 500 symphonies, music schools and universities in every corner of the globe–from Carnegie Hall in New York to Beijing Central Conservatory in China–turn to Marimba One as they seek superior sound, guaranteed durability and top-notch service for their concert marimbas.

It all starts outside the little villages of Central America. There the Marimba One team led by Samuels, who has both a trained ear from playing classical piano and a reverence for so-called ‘tone woods,’ hand-inspects and selects for shipping each piece of rosewood.

Once the wood reaches the Marimba One manufacturing facility in Arcata, it is air-dried, then kiln-dried and molded into the various bar profiles that the master craftsmen use to build marimbas.

Next, Marimba One’s master tuner grades the wood for sound, constantly looking for any flaws in the wood and listening to its resonance so that he can maximize its musical qualities.

The customer then enters the picture since he or she chooses the “voicing” for their keyboard. Based on this description of how they want their marimba to sound, Marimba One selects the bars that best match their description. Samuels knows artists are looking for a darker sound that is louder and warmer.

“We’re always thinking about sound quality and how to bring out the clearest and most musical voice in each piece of wood,” says Samuels. The audiences at the ZMF in Arcata will hear the marimbists creating the sound they crave.

Zeltsman Marimba Festival 2011 Announced

Nancy Zeltsman has announced that the 2011 Zeltsman Marimba Festival (ZMF) will take place at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin from June 26th to July 9th.

This year’s faculty includes: Nanae Mimura, Fumito Nunoya, Christos Rafalides, Dane Richeson, Jack Van Geem, Nancy Zeltsman.

For more information including registration materials, please visit http://www.zmf.us

Intermediate Masterworks for Marimba – Reviewed by University of Maryland Curator

The Intermediate Masterworks for Marimba has been reviewed by the University of Maryland Curator Vincent J. Novara. This was a great review. He classified the performers into 3 categories:

“The recording features expressive performances by several of today’s acclaimed marimbists, including current virtuosos (Ivana Bilic, Thomas Burritt, and Beverley Johnston) and established masters (William Moersch, Gordon Stout, and Zeltsman). Jack Van Geem and Jean Geoffroy also deliver fine performances.”

I am not exactly sure why Jack Van Geem and Jean Geoffroy are separated here. I would have put them in the “established masters” section. The rest of the review is quite well done and it is interesting to note the pieces the were his favorites (they are different than my favorites).

It is great to see this collection getting traction out there at Universities!

Zeltsman Marimba Festival 2010 in Amsterdam Announced

The Zeltsman Marimba Festival 2010 has been announced and will be held at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. The event will take place this summer from June 25 through July 10, 2010. This is the 9th year of the festival and the first time it will be held overseas.

The faculty for this year will be Nancy Zeltsman, Jack Van Geem, Ivana Bilic, Tatiana Koleva, Theodor Milkov, PercaDu, Peter Prommel, and Julie Spencer.

Early registration is now open and will earn you one of the many possible discounts. For more information about the festival head to the official web site at: http://www.zmf.us.