Kyle Zerna, Timpani & Percussion

The New York Philharmonic

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Biography
Kyle Zerna

Kyle Zerna joined the New York Philharmonic in September 2010. Previously, he was in the master’s degree program at the Manhattan School of Music, where he completed his bachelor’s degree under the tutelage of Duncan Patton and New York Philharmonic Principal Percussion Christopher S. Lamb. He has performed with numerous orchestras, including the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Princeton Symphony, and New World Symphony. An avid performer of 20th-century and new music, he has collaborated with composers Charles Wuorinen, David Lang, Kevin Volans, and Elliott Carter, and performed two timpani solos for Mr. Carter’s centennial birthday celebration.

Mr. Zerna was a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center for two consecutive years, performing with conductors such as James Levine, Bernard Haitink, and Sir Andrew Davis. He has also performed frequently as principal timpanist with the Britten-Pears Young Artists Programme in Aldeburgh, England, and has recorded with The Metropolitan Opera brass section.

“I decided to play both percussion and timpani when I went to Interlochen Arts Camp at age 13 and saw someone playing marimba with four mallets. I was intrigued; I wanted to expand myself and not stay in one line of performance — I wanted to learn everything.”

Q&A with Kyle Zerna

THE FACTS: Born in Hinsdale, Illinois. Bachelor’s degree and pursuing a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, studying with Duncan Patton and Philharmonic Principal Percussion Christopher S. Lamb. Prior to the Philharmonic: substitute player with the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Princeton Symphony, New World Symphony; Fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center for two seasons. At the Philharmonic: Joined September 2010.

EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: At age five, playing drums on a practice pad with my father. He had been a drummer with a rock band in the Philippines and didn’t read music but had a good ear. I enrolled in a band program in fourth grade, starting with the snare drum and progressing to keyboard percussion and timpani.

FIRST PIECE OF MUSIC YOU FELL IN LOVE WITH: Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Almost every movement has a kind of timpani writing I had never heard before. It opened my eyes to what percussion could do.

WHO WERE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MUSICAL INFLUENCES? My high school teacher, Vadim Karpinos from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; my teachers at the Manhattan School of Music; my father; and my Aunt Joan, a former violinist who was a great inspiration for me

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO PLAY BOTH PERCUSSION AND TIMPANI? I went to Interlochen Arts Camp at age 13 and saw someone playing marimba with four mallets. I was intrigued; I wanted to expand myself and not stay in one line of performance — I wanted to learn everything.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN? When I went to Interlochen for the first time. After I got home I immediately signed up with my local youth orchestra!

WHAT WOULD YOU BE IF NOT A MUSICIAN? A stand-up comedian. It’s always been a pipe dream. I like making people laugh.

WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF YOUR JOB? The fact that I have to fill two roles. There’s more repertoire to learn and timpani is such a tough instrument to master, but I look at it as an exciting challenge.

IF YOU COULD PLAY ANOTHER INSTRUMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Jazz trumpet. I love Miles Davis.

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO NOW? Rapper MF Doom and singer Elis Regina

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS SEASON? I enjoy playing movie scores along with the film, so I was especially excited to play There Will Be Blood last month. The soundtrack is very interesting, and I love the movie.

As of October 2018
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