Allow yourself to be engulfed by the beautiful pairing of percussionist Matt McClung and violinist Maureen Nelson’s music. The ROCO performance “Stolen Moments,” taking place Feb. 12, showcases how wonderfully the two musicians and their instruments complement one another.
McClung has quite the diverse musical background and has performed on numerous stages spanning the globe. Over the years, he has performed extensively in America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
He took a brief break from music when earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. However, he found himself veering back towards the musical path and receive a Masters degree from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He then went on to receive the first Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in percussion ever awarded by Rice University.
Today, he continues to perform as well as share his gift through teaching to eager pupils. He is currently the co-director of the Corpus Christi High School All-Stars, an ensemble of young percussionists from the coastal bend area. He is also an associate professor of music at Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi, the principal percussionist of ROCO and the principal percussionist of the Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra.
We caught up with McClung to learn more about him and the upcoming “Stolen Moments” performance.
Q: In this program, you’re performing music on percussion instruments that was originally written for violin, including a work by Bach. Do you think Bach would approve?
Matt McClung: I KNOW Bach would approve. Though he never heard a marimba, he frequently reworked his own music for other purposes and other instruments. He was a consummate recycler.
Q: While the violin can sustain the sound of a note, a percussion instrument tends to decay quickly after the initial attack. How do you manage to create a sense of continuity, especially in music that was written for the violin?
Matt McClung: There are some tricks. The obvious one is to play a roll, meaning, repeat a single note rapidly until each one blends into the next and it sounds like sustain. I can also use softer mallets, which will de-emphasize the attack. But in the end, it’s most important to simply accept the ephemeral nature of the beast.
Some of the best things in life are fleeting!
Q: How do you feel about other instruments interpreting music that was written for the percussion?
Matt McClung: This might be the first time I’ve heard of a piece written for marimba being performed on another instrument, and I am beyond thrilled!
Q: Tell us something about the work of a percussionist that most people don’t know.
Matt McClung: Often, the time it takes to move and set up equipment is greater than the amount of time I get to play. It’s worth it, of course, but it’s a lot.
ROCO presents “Stolen Moments” on Feb. 12 at MATCH | Midtown Arts & Theater Center. Tickets are $25 general admission, $15 for students.