IKMMA in the United States

by Kathleen Kastner


For percussionists who are often engaged in playing a wide variety of instruments, it was refreshing to experience a community of marimba-focused students, performers and teachers as part of the eighth International Katarzyna Mycka Marimba Academy. Nestled in the scenic community of Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, this was the first year that IKMMA has been held on the North American continent.

Thirty-one students from Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Costa Rica, Colombia, Canada and the United States attended the Academy and the faculty reflected a similar diversity: Katarzyna Mycka (Poland/Germany), Jean Geoffroy (France), Andreas Boettger (Germany), Juan David Forero (Colombia) as well as composer-in-residence Arkadiusz Kątny (Poland). Assistant teaching and performance staff included Conrado Moya (Spain) and Filip Mercep (Croatia).

The Academy is the brainchild of Mycka, long-time marimba soloist originally from Poland and now living in Germany. "My aim is to create an environment in which students have a chance to play with and learn from people who are active in the field," explains Mycka. "Rather than do a masterclass where you have a group listening to one person, I set up a schedule so that every single student gets an individual lesson every day."

The participants' schedule was packed with private and open lessons, several hours of daily private practice and two hours of chamber music rehearsal each day, as well as several lectures on various topics selected by the faculty. Scores for chamber music preparation were sent in advance to the participants so they could come prepared since all concerts were open to the public and the public did not disappoint: the residents of Arcata were enthusiastic and supportive throughout the 10 days.


Each student performed in at least in two chamber music groups, in which almost every player in each group was from a different country, which encouraged the students to find ways to communicate and helped build musical bridges between their cultures. Of great significance was the sharing of new marimba music between students from all over the world. This seasoned observer noted many composers/ pieces not heard prior to these performances; this sharing of repertoire will no doubt enhance the art of the marimba across the world.

A total of eight concerts were presented featuring both students and faculty and a wide variety of solo and chamber repertoire was heard throughout the ten days. Of note was an entire concert devoted to the music of composer-in-residence, Arkadiusz Kątny. Students were fortunate to work with him on the three world premieres, as well as a variety of his primarily keyboard percussion ensemble works. Another highlight of the week was the Children’s concert performance of an arrangement of Camille Saint- Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals. The music and spoken text was enthusiastically received by almost 800 children, most of whom stayed to get the performers’ autographs after the concert!

All of these rehearsals and concerts were facilitated by host Dr. Eugene Novotney, Professor of Percussion at HSU and IKMMA Manager and HSU graduate, M.J. Fabian, who ably organized the schedules of the 31 participants and 6 teachers!

A day of sight-seeing included a hike through the extraordinary giant Redwood trees and a walk along the beautiful beach/coast of northern California. Students and faculty also had the opportunity to tour the Marimba One factory with owner and IKMMA co-sponsor, Ron Samuels, which provided them a glimpse into his passion and the meticulous detail involved in the process of creating his marimbas and vibes.

As an observer of the Academy, the high level of performance was notable; the students were serious about learning, but they were also very friendly and supportive of each other. Likewise, the faculty were encouraging and approachable; it was extraordinary to witness the connections between cultures and between students and faculty through the art of the marimba. It was a delightful 10-days of the marimba on the northern California coast!!

Be on the lookout for information regarding the next IKMMA; it will be held in Ljubljana - the capital of Slovenia - in the summer of 2019!