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.

First Annual Amsterdam Marimba Weekend

The first annual Amsterdam Marimba Weekend will be help on May 9-11, 2014. The web site for more information is at:


Below is a copy of the information from their Facebook page. Enjoy!

First International Edition
9-10-11 MAY, 2014

There days of master classes, open rehearsals, clinics and final concert-fiesta at Podium Mozaïek on 11 May at 15.30h


Special guests:

Registration, info & tickets:

The Amsterdam Marimba Weekend will be hosted by Pustjens Percussion Products and Tatiana Koleva.

additional links:

AMW is supported by Pustjens Percussion Products, ADAMS, Concorde, Marimba One, GreenPePR, Marimba/Percussion Projects Foundation, NL, IFAA Accountants & Tax Advisers, Amsterdam, Vereniging Nederland – Bulgarije, private donations.

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!

University of North Texas Keyboard Percussion Symposium June 16-20, 2014

The University of North Texas Keyboard Percussion Symposium will be held this June 16-20, 2014. The faculty includes:

Christopher Deane – UNT College of Music, Symposium co-director
Brian Zator – Texas A+M University-Commerce, Symposium co-director
Katarzyna Mycka – Poland/Germany
She-e Wu – Northwestern University
Sandi Rennick – Santa Clara Vanguard

This looks like a great group of faculty. For information and the application please head to their website.

If anyone has been to this symposium leave a comment and share your experiences!

Daniel Sailer senior recital at Concordia University St. Paul

Daniel Sailer held his senior recital on November 24, 2013 at Concordia University St. Paul. He played the following pieces:

“Intro” arr. Dan Sailer

Sonata for Timpani by John Beck

Solo VIII by Joseph Tompkins

Se Termino by Astor Piazzolla

3 Pieces for Percussion by Dan Sailer

  • Wonderful Woods
  • Marvelous Metals
  • Insane ON/OFF the Membrane

Libertango by Eric Sammut

“Outro” by Dan Sailer

I really enjoyed this concert not only for the great marimba playing but because many of these pieces were originals or arrangements done by Dan himself. The “3 Pieces for Percussion” also featured Jay Weiler, Oliver Zimbelman, and Lucas Ulmer. I think  that piece will be a great one for other college ensembles to play (especially if you like the snare drum).

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!

2014 Southern California International Marimba Competition

The 2014 Southern California International Marimba Competition will be held from May 30-June 1st, 2014. The application process is to submit an audio recording via DropBox by March 1, 2014 which is a pretty innovative and easy way to apply.

This year Gordon Stout will be a guest jury member. The other jury members include Naoko Takada, Lynn Vartan, and Nick Terry.

The collegiate category does not require you to be in a college music program. There is also a duo category. It is open to all marimbists, so get practicing and apply! For more information head over to the SCIMC website.


Annie Stevens Percussion Master Class at MacPhail

Dr. Annie Stevens recently came to Minneapolis on October 19 and held a master class for some of the MacPhail students. She is currently the Visiting Assistant Professor of Percussion at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, VA. She is part of the percussion duo Escape Ten and her and Andrea Venet have some very cool marimba duos at their website.

I especially like the new piece called 2+1 by Ivan Trevino. The YouTube video of this duet can be seen below. This piece is interesting in that one player stands behind the natural bars (normal playing position) and the other player stands behind the accidentals. Annie noted in her master class that this was to give schools a new duet to play without having to have 2 marimbas. The player who is on the accidental side of the marimba will now have larger reaches with their right hand and will need to think a little harder.

The master class was standing room only and it was great to see such a nice turnout for an event like this. Thanks to Dr. Stevens for stopping by!

Album für die Jugend duet

I paired up with Jill Meidinger recently at Faith Lutheran Church on two of the movements from Schumann’s Album für die Jugend (Album For the Young). This particular arrangement by Gerhard Stengert is for marimba duo and is available at Steve Weiss Music. This duo is great in that the audience is likely familiar with the melodies and you can really work together as a team to make it sound great. When you perform this, pay attention to the dynamics and try and make every line have a purpose and you will have success. Thanks Jill for playing it with me! Enjoy!

“Firefish – Music of Blake Tyson” review

Blake Tyson has released his new CD “Firefish” on iTunes. He has also provided the digital book for the CD free for everyone to download so you can read about each of the compositions and the story behind them.

I have been a fan of Blake Tyson ever since I heard the piece “A cricket sang and set the sun”. I contacted him directly to purchase the sheet music and was thrilled to received a personalized note with the music. When I heard about his new project on Kickstarter I knew that I wanted to help fund that project.

Firefish has 10 tracks which are a mix of solo marimba and mallet ensemble music. The tracks are:

1. Cloud Forest

2. Not far from here

3. Moonrise – I. The Moon Holds My Heart

4. Moonrise – II. The First Time I Saw the Moon

5. Firefish

6. Inside the Shining Stone

7. A Ceiling Full Of Starts

8. A Cricket Sang and Set the Sun

9. Vagabond of Light

10. Not Far From Here for Solo Marimba

I was already a huge fan of “A cricket sang and set the sun” and if you want to see Blake performing that piece you can take a listen here:

A Cricket sang and set the sun

My favorite piece new composition on this CD is “Not far from here”. Folks who read this blog know that I am partial to “pretty” marimba music and this composition fits that bill perfectly. There is a time and a place for Velocities, and Merlin and other pieces with a lot of notes in them (and I love them too), but sometimes we all should stop and listen to some relaxing music that is audience accessible, sounds great and makes you slowly exhale when listening to it. This piece does that for me. Both the percussion ensemble and marimba solo of this piece are on the CD and ironically I do prefer the ensemble version. I didn’t see the ensemble version on Steve Weiss but the solo version is available there today.

Another thing to note about this CD, is that many of the parts are performed on the new MJB Marimba from Malletech. Getting the lowest octave right on a 5-octave marimba is something that I believe will take another couple of decades to perfect considering how many decades marimba manufacturers have been working on the the problem so far. Having said that, the low end of this marimba is really something to listen too. It pushes the whole marimba sound forward similar to what the Basso Bravo resonators did for Marimba One. This sound can really rattle cheap internal laptop speakers, so be sure to listen to this CD on a nice set of speakers. I also believe this has a lot to do with the recording and mixing skills of John Parks IV. This CD really sounds amazing not only from the low end of the marimba but the bells and crotales on the high end. For those not familiar with John Parks, he was features on PATV episode 74. You can debate with him if Haydn was a “complete hack” or not. 🙂

For more information about Blake Tyson, please visit his website, Facebook page, YouTube channel, or contact him via Twitter.