Truman student talks marimba, percussion

The marimba — which looks like a piano but instead consists of a set of wooden bars struck with mallets to produce music — is quite the misunderstood instrument and often confused with a xylophone.

This confusion is one of the reasons why Truman State University graduate percussion student Hannah Gallamore has established the percussion duo, CHannel2.

Recently CHannel2 performed at the TEDxUMKC conference in the National World War I Museum. Both of them played contemporary pieces on their marimbas.

“We played in front of an audience who had no musical background, so they had no idea what these instruments were,” Gallamore said. “That was cool because we were able to talk about what these instruments were and what percussion is like now.”

In addition to her work with CHannel2, Gallamore also won competitions, performed concertos and solos. She continues to play percussion in ensembles and teaches high school and college students, as well as commission composers and premiere marimba pieces.

It comes as no surprise to Michael Bump, her percussion professor, that Gallamore is able to balance all the activities she does as a percussionist and student. He said she has developed her craft and skills as a musician one hour at a time, and one minute at a time.

He said she knows how to look for opportunities and take advantage of them, whether it be attending music festivals or playing in master classes. It is something she has done ever since she first arrived at Truman as a freshman.

“She’s always looking for new and challenging works for percussion, and having people write new works for her,” Bump said. “She’s making things happen.”

CHannel2 first formed in Gallamore’s junior year in 2017. She performed with Conner Viets, who was also a Truman student at time. She said their mission is to reach as wide of an audience as possible because many people don’t know much about marimba. CHannel2 recently posted a video where they played a piece called “Paper Covers Rock” by Adam Silverman. The piece featured desk bells that the performers hit with their hands. They also used a carousel, which consisted of eight spinning bells that they hit with a mallet.

CHannel2 has also played in high schools in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas to perform percussion. Gallamore said high school is a great place to start for kids who are interested in music but still don’t realize what’s out there, and what they can do with percussion.

“We want to show them the different types of percussion, and we hope to motivate them to continue if that’s what they want,” Gallamore said. “Hard work can bring you somewhere, and that’s really important.”

Adam McCann, a graduate percussion student at Truman, has seen CHannel2 recitals and has known Gallamore since they both started as freshmen at Truman.

“She and the duo will go places,” McCann said. “I know it sounds kind of cliché, but she has the vision and knows where she wants to be — she has the drive and dedication to get there.”

Gallamore said the marimba is her primary instrument, though she continues to work at becoming a well-rounded percussionist. She said in the graduate stage of percussion studies, it is important to be able to play all percussion instruments at a certain skill level, especially if there is an interest in teaching. She also mainly performs contemporary works, meaning that she plays music that was composed in 2000 and beyond.

“Percussion is such a new field that’s just continuing to grow, which is really cool, especially since the composers are alive,” Gallamore said. “I can go speak to them and take a lesson with them now and learn more about their pieces.”

For instance, at the North Star Music Festival at Truman, Gallamore performed as a soloist in the world premiere of Adam Silverman’s piece, “pittering/pattering.” She said Silverman specifically wrote that piece for the Truman Percussion Ensemble, and it was a great experience because he looked at Truman players and wrote music to match their skill set. She and the group were the first ones to play it, and they were able to publish the first audio and video components.

Gallamore said she loves what is being written for percussion now, but more techniques are being developed. She said she wants to get more marimba literature out there and is commissioning composers to write pieces that feature the marimba. Gallamore is also currently working on a project that features a marimba solo with electronics.

Bump said Gallamore is similar to other students he’s had in his 35 years of college teaching because she is not afraid to push, ask questions and find the answers. He said she is an exceptional student because she clawed her way up through self-discipline and developed a strong work ethic. That is how she gained the success she has, Bump said. It is the kind of thing that puts a smile on his face.

“With Hannah, the sky’s the limit,” Bump said.