University of Maine music professor Stuart Marrs has begun a five-country tour to teach master classes in percussion.
The European leg began earlier this month at the Paris Conservatory of Music, where he offered master classes on the solo timpani works of Elliott Carter — pieces Marrs recorded on an interactive pedagogical DVD in 2006.
Carter’s works were also featured in Marrs’ master classes in Germany with students from Tübingen and Stuttgart.
This month, Marrs also is conducting musicological research at the Paul Sacher Foundation Archive in Basel, Switzerland, where the last manuscript of “Ionisation,” by Edgard Varèse is housed. Marrs is working on a critical performance of the piece, considered a monument of 20th-century music, and the results of the research will comprise a definitive recording with the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music Percussion Ensemble and an article in the international trade journal, “Percussive Notes.”
In March, Marrs will travel to Singapore. In conjunction with master classes, he will be directing and recording with the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music Percussion Ensemble. Marrs will also be performing in the percussion section of the Singapore National Symphony Orchestra in one of its Young Persons Concerts.
His tour will end in Costa Rica at a school where he was one of the founding faculty members. In the 1970s, Marrs was part of the “Musical Revolution” in Costa Rica, founding the school of percussion playing there and which is still active today. He and two former students were invited back to Costa Rica by Bismarck Fernández, also one of Marrs’ former students and now head of the percussion department at the National Institute of Music, for a celebratory festival.
Marrs says it’s rewarding to be asked to return to the school where he spent 11 years teaching and working with students who might not otherwise have been exposed to music.
“The bond created through those years with this talented group of young people is incredibly strong,” says Marrs.
“As a teacher I feel most fulfilled when I can contribute something relatively unique to my field, so that I know I have helped the art form continue to develop,” Marrs says.