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Percussionist Bill Shaltis Doesn’t Experience ‘Whiplash’

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BILL SHALTIS

Doctor of Musical Arts in Percussion Performance | Conservatory of Music and Dance | December 2015

How has college inspired you?

It has helped reinforce and refine my skills as a performer and as a teacher. The opportunities have allowed me to grow creatively.

Since entering college, what have you learned about yourself?

That I absolutely love teaching and performing and know that I am on the right path as a musician.

What do you admire most at UMKC?

The conservatory faculty members are excellent role models for the students. Not only are they consummate professionals, but they are also generous with their time and talents.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Continuing to perform in an orchestra (I play timpani in Boise, Idaho), performing as a chamber musician and teaching at the collegiate level.

What is one word that best describes you and why?

Organized. I’ve learned over the years that organization is a key component to success in the music industry. If I’m not organized with my practice schedule, my teaching schedule or any other schedule, bad things happen physically and mentally!

What motto do you live by?

  • Be on time.
  • Be prepared.
  • Be a good person.

If you can do all three, you’ll probably find success in the field.

What got you interested in performance?

I started taking drum lessons when I was 7. I love getting the right sound for the right moment. There’s a visceral excitement. It’s cathartic after a stressful day. You can take 10 minutes and let it all out.

Two recent critically acclaimed films featured drums. The Oscar winner “Birdman” has a drum beat nearly the entire movie, creating intense pacing. And then there’s “Whiplash,” featuring a cut-throat conservatory instructor played by J.K. Simmons, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Ever experienced horribly stressful teaching and/or performance on the drums?

I think that movie went Hollywood. I’ve had blisters but never blood spurting out of my hands. Maybe I’m just not playing hard enough. (Laughs)

Do you still get performance anxiety? If so, how do you deal with it?

Yes, I’ve learned some techniques. If you’re doing a solo and the spotlight is on you, you focus on the moment and the music, trusting in how you’re prepared.

Your marimba looks like a xylophone and is gorgeous. What’s it made of?

Brazilian rosewood.

How many hours per day do you practice?

About four hours per day. Some of it’s physically playing, but it’s also recording yourself and listening.

What’s something people don’t know about musicians?

Most of them drive a minivan. I have a Dodge Caravan with a set of timpani and other percussion instruments I have to haul around.


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