IKMMA 2015 by Cynthia Burgess

The International Katarzyna Mycka Marimba Academy – this year in its 7th edition - is an incredibly special place forpercussionists from all over the world. 

When I arrived in Hanover this summer in July, I had no expectations, and knew no one; but the decision to attend would prove to yield the most surprising, and beautiful experiences and friendships.

The festival is an intense, two-week seminar with lessons, rehearsals, and concerts every single night, or during the morning. As a student, you are exposed to a wide variety of teachers who come from very different schools of thought, and you are thrown into a group of colleagues who come from all over the world. Teaching at the festival this year was Katarzyna Mycka, Svet Stoyanov, Beverly Johnston, and Andreas Boettger. As challenging as the days are, and as overwhelmed as you feel, it is doubly as rewarding; the instructors have worked tirelessly on the schedule to ensure each student gets a private lesson every day, so they may study twice with each teacher, have chamber rehearsals, and mexican ensemble rehearsals (and still a little bit leftover to practice!).

In addition to the private lessons, we had the incredible opportunity to work with experts in the Mexican marimba tradition, Israel Moreno and Roberto Hernandez Soto. This was such an amazing change from the “classical” style of marimba which we are all so familiar with, and contrasted so nicely between our chamber rehearsals in the mornings, and the Mexican ensemble rehearsals in the afternoon. The Mexican marimba recital was one of the most enjoyable recitals with such a warmth from the pieces we played, and hearing the love and passion that these teachers have for this deep tradition in their culture was so inspiring and truly influences how you feel about music.

Each student also performed in one or more chamber ensemble pieces, coached by several different teachers of the academy, including the two “teacher’s assistants” Conrado Moya, and Felip Mercep. Collectively, we performed over twenty pieces in just under two weeks. In addition to our performances, the teachers also performed chamber pieces and solos on multiple concerts during the academy, an incredibly inspiring part of the festival. There is no better spark to remind you of your passion than the inspiration of your teacher performing amazing music, and sharing the experience with you.

One of the highlihts for us was also meeting IKMMA composer and getting closer to his philosophy of understanding music and the world – this edition we were so lucky to have Christos Hatzis with us! One of evening concerts was dedicated to his music (also including premieres of four new works by young composers from Hanover). Beverley Johnston premiered his new piece for marimba and digital audio named „Phosphorus“, K. Mycka performed „In the Fire of Conflict“ and students „Fertility Rites“ and the beautiful quartet „Modulations 1“.

In the Mexican ensembles, and in the other chamber ensembles, Katarzyna Mycka's gole is to mix together students from all nationalities. This pushes you into working with colleagues from completely different cultures, experiences, and backgrounds, something which I found completely unique to this festival. 

No where else have I attended has put such a focus on mixing students together and bringing people from as far away as possible so that the students attending would have a better experience having to open up their thoughts, and be pushed out of their comfort zones.

In addition to all of the amazing playing experiences a student is afforded at IKMMA, the time you spend away from the instrument is just as crucial; to simply spend time with your colleagues is as much of a learning experience as all the lessons. The conversations ranging from different schools approach to timpani playing to simply the different greetings and customs that come with sharing a meal with others can help you to open up to new connections, and open yourself up more as a musician. IKMMA is truly a special and amazing academy to make your way to at some point in your study, and an opportunity that will leave a permanent mark on your music making, and your heart.