jonathan greeney tackles 10 questions

jonathan greeney just joined the band at the beginning of this season… he’s the one in the back banging on those nifty kettledrums (“timpani” if you want to be all fancy-pants about it).  he also responds to texted shout-outs very well.  thanks jon!  (frosh!)

what’s so awesome about timpani?


As far as orchestral percussion goes, I don’t think there is anything more satisfying than playing timpani with a great orchestra.  For those who don’t know, timpani are “pitched drums” tuned on the fly by the use of pedals and cranks which alter the note each drum has to offer at any given time.  They also “ring” a lot longer than most drums.  On top of all of that, they are loud which puts the timpani in a leading position that can really drive the orchestra.  And let’s not forget… chicks dig drummers!


could you talk a bit about the mallets you use?


So you’ve got three main ingredients: the shaft, the core, and the covering material on that core.  Any change in any one of these categories changes the sound.  The shaft can be made of wood, bamboo or plastic of all different lengths and sizes.  The core, which is attached to the end of the shaft, can be made of very hard pressed felt, wood, cork, or leather.  The covering material over the core is usually felt.  With different combinations of shafts, cores, and covering, you have a lot to play with to achieve the tone you want.  Then you can alter the tone even more by how you hit the drum, but that’s a whole other subject.


you realize how difficult it is for me not to make a “shaft” joke here?!  jeez.  your graduate work took place in cleveland – what do you miss about c-town?


Hands down, the Great Lakes Christmas Ale!  I love Portland beers, but god do I miss that Christmas Ale around the holidays!  I thought I’d miss the iron chef Michael Simon’s restaurants but I gotta say Portland has the best restaurants I’ve ever been to.  We lived on the east side in Shaker Heights and it was a really nice place to raise a family…. then again so is Portland.  I can tell you I don’t miss the snow in the winter and the humidity in the summer. 


after the christmas ale, the pitcher of dortmunder gold is on me.  ahh, memories.  okay, um… it’s not like i’ve seen a ton of orchestras play, but it’s obvious you get into your performance and seem a bit more physically expressive than what i might expect from a symphony musician… am i imagining this?


My instrument is a pretty physical one, so that might explain some of it.  I feel like a lot of classical musicians in general reserve body movement to achieve a great sound, but for timpani, movement is a big part of it.  That being said, I also just really enjoy playing, so I guess I just get into it.  I mean, if you take the “prestige” out of this genre and actually “hear” the music, it freakin’ rocks… how can you not get into it??? 


if you could invite 3 composers to dinner, who would you choose?


Mahler, Stravinsky and Sibelius, for no other reason than they’re my favorite composers.  I’d probably have them over to dinner so they could meet my family… and then probably drink a LOT and ask them a million questions about drums! 


i understand if you can’t talk about it, but could you shed some light on the hazing you have experienced as a freshman symphony member?


My colleagues will pretend to pay their bills at the bar, leave and then I find out I have to pay for all of it… They’ll have me ask questions to conductors they’re too embarrassed to ask… If I didn’t hear where we are starting in rehearsal they’ll tell me another spot to make me look bad…. They’ll sneak coins on my timpani heads when I’m not looking so when I play they start bouncing all over the place…


your wife is a pianist – how often do you play together?


We never play together actually.  There’s not much rep for piano and percussion.  It’s probably better for our relationship anyway 🙂 She’s a really amazing player though, and absolutely loves to teach.  My name’s Jon and hers is Yoko… don’t worry, I don’t think she’ll be breaking up the band this time!


if i were to buy you a drink, what would you order?


Depends on my mood, Portland has awesome beers and amazing wine, but if you caught me on a typical night I’d order a double Basil Hayden’s bourbon neat.


you were with a mexican orchestra for 2 years before coming here… how are you surviving your first portland winter thus far?


Xalapa was pretty far south but 5,000 feet above sea level so humidity was usually 60-70% and the temp was usually in the 70’s.  It was basically perfect weather.  Having Cleveland as a buffer made Portland actually really nice.


are you getting stoked for colin currie’s performance?


I’m super stoked!  I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about him and the Higdon concerto is a really cool piece!  I’m really looking forward to it!


thanks jon!  oh, and btw, the classical marmot up in seattle bet the beaver he couldn’t post back-to-back percussionist interviews… we’ll see who’s laughing tomorrow.  fucking marmots.


1 Response to “jonathan greeney tackles 10 questions”

  1. 1 Christa Wessel February 1, 2011 at 10:03 am

    A double Basil Hayden neat? I love him already.

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