Madeleine Chwasta (VIC) went to her first percussion lesson when she was 12, thinking she was pursuing her dreams to be the next rock drum kit player. Unbeknownst to her, her teacher was a marimba specialist, and she spent the whole lesson learning a Mozart violin concerto transcription on the marimba. She has not stopped playing the marimba since. We interviewed Madi to find out more:
Describe your approach to music in 5 words
Collaborative, emotional, thoughtful, enthusiastic, intense
How did you come to playing percussion?
I’ve always loved rhythm. When I was about four or five, I loved tap dancing, which definitely relates to percussion! However, it was my piano teacher who inspired me to get percussion lessons. I started out playing jazz and contemporary piano music when I was in primary school. My teacher would put on these concerts in her backyard where all her students would play for each other, and everyone else would be part of a rotating accompaniment for each student. I loved playing the drum kit, and that’s when I first thought about learning percussion.
I started lessons when I went to high school, and ended up falling in love with tuned percussion, particularly the marimba. It wasn’t until late high school that I did the Emerging Artists Program with Speak Percussion, and found a love and fascination with new art music and the chamber percussion repertoire.
I also loved the collaborative nature of percussion. As a percussionist, you’re always helping others move gear and you’re constantly having to share instruments with other people, so it’s really easy to make friends!
You took a break from music for a bit but have now focused on it again, tell us a bit about that.
When I finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Melbourne, I was pretty burnt out. I was dealing with a playing related injury and some mental health issues. Everyone around me seemed to know exactly what they were doing with music, and I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to pursue.
I decided to try something completely different and started a Masters in Journalism at the University of Melbourne, which a lot of people didn’t expect. And I really enjoyed it… except I only did six months of the degree! Towards the end of last year I started to get more music work, and I didn’t have time to go back to study. The opportunity to audition at ANAM came up, and it just seemed natural to apply.
I’m so incredibly glad I took it, because now I’m enjoying music more now than I ever had before. I think I needed the six months to process everything, grow up a bit, and take a mental break from the pressures of music, because it can get pretty intense!
What projects are you most looking forward to at ANAM this year and why?
I’m super excited for the American Triptych Week in October, where Steven Schick, Jan Williams and William Winant are coming to work with us. To have all three of them in the building will be an absolute dream come true, as they’re all game-changers in their own regard.
The Cage and Zappa project in August with Michael Kieran Harvey will also be a whirlwind of a week. We’ve started to work on the repertoire for that concert already, and the music is absolutely insane! It’s looking to be a really exciting concert.
What’s your dream gig?
The absolute dream gig would be to tour around Australia and the world as a percussion soloist or as a member of a percussion or mixed chamber ensemble. But ultimately, as long as I get the opportunity to play wonderful music with wonderful people, and I have the opportunity to keep learning about music from the people around me, I’ll be more than happy!
Photography by Pia Johnson
What’s coming up for ANAM Percussion?
And we’ve recently opened applications for our 2017 ANAM Percussion Short Course.
Visit anam.com.au/PercussionShortCourse for more information