I grew up in a family that loved to listen to music but didn’t really play music. In 6th grade I took guitar lessons for a year and then stopped. I also started playing drums and taking some drum lessons in late grade school and then I stopped lessons and just kinda taught myself. I started playing in a rock band and that band kinda took off so I basically learned to play through playing in this band that played around St. Louis. We were a young cover band and we rose up pretty quickly. I was just playing in bars when I was 15 or 16 because the audience really loved what we did and we were solid. Meanwhile, I was the last chair in my high school band as a freshman and I just kinda worked my way up from there. I practiced scales and I tried to get better. I got into a higher band and I started taking some classical percussion lessons, trying to learn to read music particularly notes and not just rhythm. Eventually I got into a youth symphony. It was really rare at my high school for anyone to be interested in classical music, but I had some friends who were in it as string players and I was really interested in the orchestra, I just loved the sound of strings. That took me to studying with the principal percussionist of the St. Louis Symphony.
When it came time for college I looked for programs that had both jazz and classical. I ended up going to Indiana University. While there I got really into all the music and just worked really really hard for years. I’d always been moved by Martin Luther King, Miles Davis, Robin Williams so I created these interdisciplinary works with speech, percussion, and visuals and basically started to intertwine social justice with music. I showed them to professors at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music because I wanted to go there for grad school and they loved them and were very impressed and intrigued. New York seemed like where I should go next for grad school and I actually didn’t think Boston was where I was supposed to be at all. I ended up not getting into the New York schools, but I got into New England Conservatory and it’s a great school and I knew I was going to have a great teacher, Will Hudgins, who was my high school teacher’s teacher. I’d been to Boston a couple times because of Berklee and I did the Berklee 5 week program, but I didn’t know what I was getting into. I got to Boston and within a couple weeks I thought to myself, “I think I love this place.” Then a month went by and that turned to, “I love this.” I just started playing - I started playing in samba groups and I was doing all the classical stuff at school. That’s when I found Shelter Music Boston and I started volunteering. As time went on in grad school at NEC, I was more and more playing in the city and less and less concerned with school and by the time my last semester came around I was playing in the band Night Tree and we were touring. I was gonna be staying in Boston after graduation so I started freelancing and working at Club Passim. I’ve always known about SMB but the timing just worked out right now and I’m really really excited to be a part of this super awesome team.
My mom’s a religion teacher and she’s very into the Jesuits. I grew up doing a lot of service work and went to food pantries often. My mom was always leading her classes and there was a lot of service work at these Catholic grade schools in St. Louis. After school I would go with her to bring her 7th and 8th graders to the food pantry or to the shelter. That was just a part of life. Then in high school I did my service hours at a homeless shelter where we would serve food and it was a really cool community there. I was always taught if you’ve been given you give back. When I got to Boston I found SMB and thought, “This is amazing. This is exactly what I want to do with classical music.” I got on a list to volunteer and realized how special it is to go into these shelters and get a total reset of perspective and also to see the musicians playing in these spaces.
What’s your favorite thing about working with Shelter Music Boston?
There’s 2 things that come to mind. The first is meeting Julie Leven in the interview and finding out she is also from St. Louis and her and I just totally hitting it off. She even knows the percussionist in the symphony there that I studied with in high school. I don’t meet many people from St. Louis in Boston so for the one person from St. Louis that I meet in Boston to be the founder of SMB was amazing.
The second thing easily would be the school programs at the Ellis school for a kindergarten class that we just started. These kindergarteners are the cutest things. We’ve just had one so far and I’m already excited for future programs at that school.
I started a podcast during the pandemic. I’ve been doing it now for the last year. It’s called A Millennial Musician and it’s available on all podcast platforms. It’s been amazing to celebrate millennials and talk about ourselves, our experience, and our relationship to each other and the generation around us. It’s been really great to celebrate those stories and have these artists come on and tell their stories from their own voices. I think that’s really powerful. I also play with harpist Charles Overton. We’ve been playing together for a couple years and we’re hoping to record some content in the near future. I have a solo album and repertoire and I’m planning to do more recordings of that. Pre-Covid I was touring with my solo music, playing drums in various bands, and freelancing around Boston. I’ve written music for ads and hope to one day write music for film. I also work at Club Passim.
I also love to travel and I’m a big cook. I treat cooking as seriously as music. I’m really into making new recipes and trying out food. I study Spanish. I take weekly Spanish lessons. I play a lot of music from South America and Central America. I’m trying to immerse myself fully in that culture better as an outsider and learning the language is a big part of that.
When I was in high school I went with some friends to see our friend play in the youth orchestra. It sounds really goofy but the whole experience in my memory is just bright light, which was probably just the chandeliers of Powell Hall, but it truly changed my life. Of all the times for me to go, there was a marimba concerto. I just remember bright lights and it being the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. At the time it sounded like the heavens and I knew that I had to be in that group. I got completely obsessed and quit sports so I had more time to practice for the youth orchestra audition. Without that concert, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.
There’s also so many jazz and rock concerts that have been amazing like seeing Wilco live in high school and seeing Dave Holland which was the first real jazz concert I went to. I’ve never seen people play their instruments that incredibly. I used to go to a music non profit in St. Louis called Sangeetha. It was all Indian music and they would bring world class Indians musicians there to play these ragas. The music was just unbelievable and the musicianship was some of the best I’ve ever seen - absolute technical perfection equally combined with musical perfection. The technique served the music and the phrasing. It was truly mind blowing.
What is your favorite performance you’ve ever given?
I loved the interdisciplinary concerts like the one I did at Chautauqua where I led 40+ artists from various backgrounds. Each piece was introduced by a poem. There was dance, sculpture, and electronics. It was really rad, just mega collaboration. There was a group piece at the end by Frederic Rzewski about incarceration and the cruelty of it. Having a full room of people at Chautauqua who hadn’t ever seen something like that and to be run by me and students in a way that the program was never able to do before was really special. They didn’t ask me to do it - I just did it and made it happen. That concert led to a lot of other connections and relationships and was just really special.
There also was a show outside of Asheville, NC a couple Falls ago. I was playing my solo vibraphone stuff. This woman came up to me after the concert and said, “I thought about not coming here tonight because this week my dog got run over by a car and it’s just been devastating for me, but your concert really gave me great joy and peace. It really allowed me to move on.” That’s what I want to do. Yes, it’d be great to make money and survive but that’s why I do this - to have that moment that I’ll have with me forever and to know that whatever is coming out of me has that ability gives me great meaning and purpose. Whenever I’ve connected with an audience member in a deep way and they’re able to share that with me - that’s the best concert.
What 5 albums would you take with you to a deserted island?
- Bach: The Goldberg Variations by Glen Gould
- Sky Blue Sky by Wilco
- Blood by Lianne La Havas
- The Joker soundtrack by Hildur Gudnadottir
- A compilation album of Afro-Cuban music from an alumnae musician that I got in college