The latest…

I have some unexpected and wonderful news to share – Sandbox Percussion has just been awarded a 2024 Avery Fisher Career Grant. This honor is granted to a group of performers and ensembles each year, and the list of past winners includes many incredible artists that I’ve looked up to for years. We are the first percussion ensemble to receive this honor in the program’s 50-year history, and we are quite blown away by this recognition.

One of the reasons that we started this ensemble is to do what we can to expand the reach of percussion chamber music. When we began in 2011, others had started to pave the way for us – Nexus, So Percussion, Amanda, Third Coast Percussion, and others – and we made it our business to put this music that we cared deeply about in front of as many people as we could.

When we started this little ensemble 13 years ago, I don’t think we ever could have imagined some of the amazing things that would happen to us, and the way our brand of collaboration and music-making would resonate. We’re not finished yet – among other things, this award comes with a generous grant, that can be used towards any artistic purpose that will further our career. We’re going to use part of this grant to commission a new piece – a forthcoming work from Andy Akiho, a continuation of the collaborative work that we’ve started with Seven Pillars.

Last night, we played a short performance, along with our fellow awardees, at The Greene Space in NYC. You can read more about the award and watch the performance here.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here –  this year has been a bit of a whirlwind. There’s lots to catch up on, so I’m going to jump right in:

Seven Pillars, Sandbox Percussion’s album with Andy Akiho, has been nominated for two GRAMMY awards this year – Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, and Best Contemporary Classical composition! And, The Arching Path, Christopher Cerrone’s beautiful album that features performances by myself and several incredible colleagues is also nominated, in the Best Classical Compendium Category. It is quite the honor to be recognized this way, alongside so many other inspiring artists – all of us will be out in Las Vegas for the ceremony, and we’ll be celebrating, one way or another! You can stream our part of the ceremony live at 12:30pm PT/3:30pm ET. Read more…

Vic Firth just released a video of Andy Akiho‘s LIgNEouS V with the Dover Quartet.

This is the fifth and final movement of the LIgNEouS Suite, a work that I’ve been developing and working on since 2010. Andy Akiho is one of my closest friends – both personally and artistically. We met in grad school in 2009 – I remember him coming up to me after a class that we had together, introducing himself, and then inviting me to a concert he was performing that weekend at a sushi restaurant.

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Many people can point back to one or two mentors who had a profound impact on their life. For me, that person is Robert van Sice. I met Bob briefly in 2005 while I was still in high school, but I didn’t really get to know him until I attended a masterclass of his at the Juilliard Pre-College in 2006. I watched him teach a group of high school students that he had never met before with an incredible amount of generosity and honesty, and I was blown away by the passion with which he spoke about music.

I reached out to him, and ended up going to Yale to take a lesson with him. He spent something like 3 hours with a young musician he barely knew, and only cut it short because it was Mother’s Day, and his family was in town. Shortly after, I transferred to Peabody, and I studied with Bob both there and at Yale for the next 5 years.

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I met Christopher Cerrone in 2005 at the Manhattan School of Music, but I first played his music in 2009. We did the overture to his opera Invisible Cities, a spellbinding piece that would go on to be a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Fast-forward to 2012 – I heard that Owen Weaver was putting together a consortium of percussionists to commission Chris to write a solo piece, and I jumped at the opportunity to join them. The result was Memory Palace - a 20-minute autobiographical piece about the people, places, and things that came together to turn Chris into the person and artist that he is today.

I first played the piece in 2013, and since then have given more than 35 performances of it. I keep coming back to it, because I have never connected this personally and this emotionally to any other solo percussion piece. In going through the different periods of Chris’ past, his music inspires me to reflect on my own life in the same way.

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