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Dec. 4, 2013

Alex Smith: The Michigandered Marimba

Dec. 4, 2013

Alex Smith, a master’s candidate in performance and musicology at MSU, has taken on a project that pushes the boundaries between musical eloquence, attainable and sustainable materials and the artistry required to construct a complex and precise instrument like the marimba.

As a percussionist, Smith understands all too well what is required to play the marimba skillfully. But as a traveler abroad, he sees the challenges of conserving the diminishing and highly desirable wood materials needed to manufacture particular instruments.

Smith knew that rare woods, like rosewood and padouk, were often used for the production of marimba bars. He also learned that international labor was often involved in constructing percussion instruments.

After taking those two things into consideration, he wanted to discover what it might take to make a quality instrument closer to home. Thanks to funding from MSU and the help of local luthier and marimba craftsman Matt Kazmierski, Smith set out to make a sustainable, affordable marimba from resources obtained here in Michigan.

See the premier screening of Alex Smith’s short documentary about the project, and then hear the performance of a piece written specifically for the instrument by Michigan composer Victor Marquez, performed by Michigan artist Kelsey Tamayo. Stay for a reception afterwards to meet Smith, Matt Kazmierski, and to strike a few bars on their marimbas.

FREE. Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
Cook Recital Hall, MSU Music Building

Before coming to the MSU College of Music, Smith received his undergraduate degree from East Carolina University. He is a percussion performance and musicology/ethnomusicology master’s student who is also interested in the music of the world, having lived in both Brazil and Ghana. Smith’s creative endeavors combine his local and abroad experiences with his compositional identity and passion for teaching and researching.


Reprinted with permission from the MSU College of Music

Watch the entire documentary below

the MIchigandered Marimba from John Smith on Vimeo.