Among this year’s Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program awardees is Alex Smith, apprentice to master marimba builder Matt Kazmierski. Alex is a master’s candidate at Michigan State University, studying percussion performance and musicology with a focus on sustainable instruments and their builders.
MSU Today generated a piece about Alex last winter, highlighting the film he produced to chronicle his attempt to create a completely sustainable marimba.
You can view his film here: http://vimeo.com/80535177#at=0
Below is the piece from MSU Today.
MSU Today Student View: Alex Smith
Dec. 4, 2013
Alex Smith, a master’s candidate in performance and musicology at MSU, has taken on a project that pushes the boundaries between musical eloquence, attainable and sustainable materials and the artistry required to construct a complex and precise instrument like the marimba.
As a percussionist, Smith understands all too well what is required to play the marimba skillfully. But as a traveler abroad, he sees the challenges of conserving the diminishing and highly desirable wood materials needed to manufacture particular instruments.
Smith knew that rare woods, like rosewood and padouk, were often used for the production of marimba bars. He also learned that international labor was often involved in constructing percussion instruments.
After taking those two things into consideration, he wanted to discover what it might take to make a quality instrument closer to home. Thanks to funding from MSU and the help of local luthier and marimba craftsman Matt Kazmierski, Smith set out to make a sustainable, affordable marimba from resources obtained here in Michigan.
Before coming to the MSU College of Music, Smith received his undergraduate degree from East Carolina University. He is a percussion performance and musicology/ethnomusicology master’s student who is also interested in the music of the world, having lived in both Brazil and Ghana. Smith’s creative endeavors combine his local and abroad experiences with his compositional identity and passion for teaching and researching.
By Micah Ling