Western Carolina University junior music education major Andrew Blair recently was accepted to a prestigious percussion class to be held in New York later this spring under the direction of the world’s foremost marimba virtuoso.
The Leigh Howard Stevens 30th Summer Marimba Seminar is a comprehensive and intensive three-week master class. To be accepted into the class, the students must submit programs and letters of recommendation; be college age or professional teachers; possess an outstanding level of achievement in terms of marimba technique and musicianship; and be highly motivated toward marimba performance.
“It’s really a great honor as a musician and as a percussionist to be selected to participate,” Blair said. “It means I’m going to be studying with the father of our modern marimba techniques.”
Blair has studied all percussion instruments over the past three years while a WCU student. He has excelled at the marimba, and has performed a number of major works on recitals, said professor of music Mario Gaetano who wrote one of Blair’s letters of recommendation for the program. “Andrew has been an outstanding student – extremely bright, talented, and, most importantly, highly motivated toward excellence in everything he does,” Gaetano said.
In addition to being a member of the university Percussion Ensemble, Blair also is active in the university Wind Ensemble and marching band. Matt Henley, assistant director of athletic bands and percussion instructor with the “Pride of the Mountains” Marching Band, wrote Blair’s second letter of recommendation to the program.
Blair began playing music in eighth grade when a shortage of other elective classes left him enrolled in band. Blair played the snare drum in marching band at Eastern Randolph High School, where his band director was WCU alumnus Luke Brown. Blair gradually began to spend more time with mallet-based percussion and decided that he wanted to pursue music education in college.
“What I think I’m really going to get out of the seminar is how I might apply these instruction methods in my own teaching career,” said Blair, son of Paulette Johnson of Liberty and John Blair of Salisbury.
Only 30 students from around the world are selected to participate in the Leigh Howard Stevens Seminar.
“This is indeed the highest mark of artistic distinction one could achieve in this performance area,” said Robert Kerberg, dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts.
Seminar participants also will have the opportunity to study with other world-renowned artists such as Gordon Stout, Michael Burritt and She-e-Wu. The seminar began on May 26 and will last until June 18 in New York’s Asbury Park.