Heartland Marimba

Celebrating classical marimba year-round with communities, artists, and students!

Blog: Abby Fisher

This is a big week for HM! The HMFestival (formerly the Academy) is in full swing at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. We have been honored to have Gordon  Stout, a world renown marimbist and composer, here for the excitement at the Academy. Yet to come this week are the concerts, which you can check out on our Events page.

Another prominent figure at the Academy is one of our own, HMQuartet member, Abby Fisher. Abby is one of the five members in the HMQ. She is the first-call substitute for HMQ, hence the five members. Abby is based in New York and specializes in contemporary, classical, and African (Ewe) percussion. Be sure to check out her website to see her in her niche at abbyfisherpercussion.com.

What are some key factors that led to your career as a musician?

AF: I grew up taking music lessons: piano since age 5, cello for a few years, and then percussion in the band program at school and private lessons. My parents are not musicians, but they always thought it was important for my sister and me to study music. When we were young, my dad would make sure we practiced piano by standing with us, next to the piano and counting along.

I decided to audition for university music programs the summer before my senior year after attending a music program for the first time- Birch Creek Music Performance Center (Symphony Session), and realizing that I really enjoyed being fully immersed in music! While I was studying at Lawrence University (Appleton, WI) for my undergrad, I fully intended to have a career in music and tried to work hard enough (and continue to) to make this a reality.

What individual or group of people guided you in your passion for music?

AF: My parents are incredibly hard workers and have always encouraged me. I have been blessed with many brilliant and supportive teachers. My first percussion teacher Joe Ludwig was a huge inspiration, and taught me that music and percussion are fun! Dane Richeson and James Saporito pushed me to be a stronger player; Beverly Johnston and Eduardo Leandro inspired me through their work, and in turn helped me find my voice.

Outside of music, what interests do you have?

AF: Listening to podcasts; running; yoga

Tell us any more important information.

AF: I recently finished my DMA at Stony Brook University (May 2017), and this is the first time I am out of school! For this coming Fall 2017, I will be starting as a temporary percussion instructor at University of Tennessee, Knoxville while Dr. Andrew Bliss is on sabbatical. I am very excited to work with the students at UT!

Give a list of upcoming musical/ marimba projects.

AF: -Working on a video project of Ghanaian Ewe Drumming with Faith Conant at Stony Brook University (August 2017)

-Performing All Your Thens for Now by Lawton Hall for solo vibraphone, speaking voice, and camera at PASIC (November 2017)


The HMF Blog interviews featuring our people are compiled and prepared by our 2017 intern, Scott Eiklenborg (a percussion student at Wartburg College, Waverly, IA).

Blog: Bridget Olenik

This week HMF is featuring two of our members from the HMC Summer Tour. If you missed out, HMC toured around Iowa and in Omaha, Nebraska so far. There last of 11 concerts will be at the HMFAcedemy in Stephens Point, Wisconsin on July 11th @ 7:30. To honor the hard work HMC has put in and because it was America's birthday yesterday, HMF is putting on a double blog post about two of our HMC artists, Bridget Olenik and Jaime Esposito.

Bridget (Bri) Olenik is an active performer, composer, arranger, and educator in the Midwest. She has coached drum lines, bands, percussion ensembles, front ensembles and private students throughout states of Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio. As a performer, Bridget has played in a wide variety of genres from the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra to the Colts Drum and Bugle Corps. Currently, she is principal timpanist for the Urbana Pops Orchestra. When not in the concert hall, Bridget enjoys performing for school music programs all over the Midwest, inspiring the next generation of music makers through her performance and guidance. For the past four years, she has been involved as an artist and administrator with the Heartland Marimba Festival, promoting and performing the marimba across Iowa and the greater Midwest.

Bridget is the currently the Director of Music at Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio. She maintains an active clinician schedule and private studio alongside her duties to the music programs at Urbana. Bridget has arranged and composed music for bands, drum lines, percussion ensembles, front ensembles and for solo percussion. Bridget received her bachelor’s degree in music performance at Iowa State University with Dr. Matthew Coley and Dr. Barry Larkin. She completed her master’s degree in performance at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, studying with Kevin Bobo, John Tafoya, Steve Houghton, and Michael Spiro. Bri also proudly endorses Sabian and Vater Percussion.

What is your tie to HMF, how has it impacted your career?

BO: I met Matthew at Iowa State University. I was completing my undergrad degree when Matthew started teaching there. After I graduated, Matthew called me to participate in a few performances in the Midwest, and the following year the Heartland Marimba Festival was born. I've been involved ever since, and now serve on the board. The festival has become my main source of marimba performance after graduating with my masters; I have been a college band director since leaving IU, and while I'll hold the occasional recital my main chance to play marimba literature has been each summer in Iowa. I've met a few musicians I would not have met otherwise, and I've gained a deeper enjoyment of chamber music through the process. 

What individual or group of people guided you in your passion for music?

BO: There are a lot of people throughout my journey who have helped shape or impacted me musically. Of course, some of the largest influence came from my teachers. I would not have ended up in the places I've been without them (including HMF!). My parents are both musical and supported me when I decided to go into music. Attending Indiana University was a huge inspiration. So many of my classmates were incredible musicians and human beings, and many of them have since gained employment in the greatest orchestras, military bands, and opera companies. I wouldn't trade my Indiana experience for anything!

What is your favorite piece to play/ perform?

BO: If I had to choose, I can narrow it down to Mahler's 2nd Symphony and the Piano/Percussion Quartet by David Maslanka called "This is the World". Obviously, there are some extreme differences between the two pieces, but with both of those, the performance was a truly spiritual experience.

What are your goals?

BO: My goals are pretty simple. Make music, impact others with music, and teach others to love music. How I accomplish those goals is up for debate, but I enjoy being able to play with regional symphonies and the Heartland Marimba Festival while employed as a music teacher in the Midwest. So far, it has worked out well.

Tell us any more important information.

BO: I live in Ohio with my husband and our three cats. I guess I enjoy running now and have enjoyed where music has led us. We have met the most incredible people, traveled all over the country, and gained so many memories through performances and education. I certainly wouldn't have guessed I'd end up as a college band director in Ohio, and that's just part of the fun!


The HMF Blog interviews featuring our people are compiled and prepared by our 2017 intern, Scott Eiklenborg (a percussion student at Wartburg College, Waverly, IA).

Blog: Jaime Esposito

The second blog this July 5th is about Jaime Esposito. Jaime Esposito is a percussion performer and educator based out of Dallas, Texas. During the spring of 2016, she toured with the World Percussion Group, performing with the ensemble, presenting clinics, and coaching at various universities across the country. In 2016 Jaime was awarded 2nd place in Heartland Marimba Festival Solo Competition. In the summer of 2015, she was invited to the United Kingdom to perform with the prestigious Britten-Pears Festival Orchestra. In 2014, she won PASIC's Timpani Mock Audition. Jaime is currently on the substitute list at the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra and the Texarkana Symphony. She recently graduated from the University of North Texas with a Master’s Degree in Percussion Performance where she also maintained responsibilities as a Teaching Fellow.  She received her Undergraduate Degree in Percussion Performance from Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music. On top of her talent, Jaime's personality is perhaps equally fantastic. To learn more about Jaime, check out her site at jaimeespositopercussion.com

What is your tie to HMF, how has it impacted your career?

JE: I met Matthew when I was on tour with the Wold Percussion Group at Iowa Day of Percussion. After that, I attended Heartland Marimba Festival in Utah where I got to work with Matthew, and then this year I applied for the apprentice program. Playing with HMC has been amazing. Learning all of our music in such a short amount of time was a challenge for me, but the whole process has been rewarding and musically rejuvenating. It has been an amazing change playing multiple concerts over the same music. It gave all of us the chance to really get to know the music and perform the crap out of it.

What individual or group of people guided you in your passion for music?

JE: I don't know if I would credit any single person for my passion in music. There is a fire I have found inside of me regarding the whole musical process; the learning process, getting better every day, finally being able to play something you could not before, performing, educating, inspiring, moving someone. There is a passion deeper I have found than just the music it self.

What is your favorite movie?

JE: "A League of their Own"

Who is your favorite composer and why?

JE: Stravinsky. I was part of Chicago's Youth Symphony Orchestra in high school and the first piece we played was Petrushka. As a 16-year old, this was the coolest and most complex orchestral music I had heard. "Mind was blown, I was sold." I also believe that Stravinsky's ballets elevated the level of playing and opened doors for more difficult writing for percussionists. Without him, we might not have the tasty orchestral percussion parts we do today!

Outside of music, what hobbies do you have?

JE: I really love live entertainment such as musicals, comedy shows, drag show, and improv shows. In the summers, I enjoy skiing, wake boarding, and surfing at my grandparents' lake house. I also have a "doggo" named Rimsky who I take on walks and play fetch with :)

Give a list of upcoming musical projects.

JE: I start teaching the front ensemble July 23rd at LD Bell High School in Texas which will take up 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, for about 4 weeks. After that, my percussion duo partner and I are planning to record some really great music by some "up and coming" composers.


The HMF Blog interviews featuring our people are compiled and prepared by our 2017 intern, Scott Eiklenborg (a percussion student at Wartburg College, Waverly, IA).

HMQuartet launches in 2017!

by Matthew Coley

What's the next step for HMF?

I ponder this question all the time. I want HMF to be able to substantially support artists and to change the current landscape of the art form by making the classical marimba a regularly talked about and witnessed instrument in public settings, more than academic ones. In order to do that in any field, you constantly have to look forward and up, adapt all the time, and continually forge ahead. Last spring, as we were entering the 2016 summer season for HMF, I began thinking about this question more specifically in terms of our artistic output beyond 2016. Compared to 2015, we were about to embark on a bigger annual summer tour with the awesome HMCollective (formerly the HMF Touring/Artist Ensemble...I'm so glad Andrew Veit came up with a new name) going to 7 cities and out-of-state to Utah for our Academy; a total of 14 concerts! I felt it was time to establish a regular group of consummate artists that would be enthusiastic about spreading the HMF mission year-round through their solo work as well as their commitment to chamber music - marimba quartet music.

The Heartland Marimba Quartet is the only professional quartet (at least) in North America solely committed to marimba repertoire. We are touring once each spring and fall semester with memorized programs of American music! HMQ will be the main artist teachers/mentors of the Heartland Marimba Festival Academy each summer. HMQ is Matthew Coley, Michael J. Jones, Joe Millea, and Andrew Veit, and our first call substitute is Abby Fisher. Abby will be performing and teaching with HMQ at the HMF Academy this summer in Stevens Point, WI!

Every new HMF initiative has the energy and excitement behind it from all the positivity and success that has come from past initiatives and the amazing growth we've seen since 2014. HMQ is certainly an example of this. All the members are very excited about this endeavor, and proud of what it supports. This group will be the grandstanders for the HMF mission year-round; supporting the classical marimba for its artists, its students, its composers, and its communities!

HMQ is dedicated to high-quality, refined, and expressive performances of American music, and to providing dynamic, creative, and holistic mentoring and instruction to aspiring performers and music educators.

Heartland Marimba Dances CD Release

We're happy to announce that the Heartland Marimba Dances CD will be available to purchase at the Marimba One booth at PASIC '16! This CD features recordings of all the Academy participants from 2014-2016, as well as solo tracks performed by Matthew Coley. All proceeds from the sales of this disc will go to benefit HMF. The disc will also be available for purchase soon on CD Baby, iTunes, and other online outlets.

The music:
1. "Habanera" from Carmen by Georges Bizet/arr. Matthew Coley
2. Music for Five Marimbas by Anthony Di Bartolo
3. Fugue in c minor from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I by J.S. Bach
4. My Fugal Things by Matthew Coley
5. Stonewall Magnificats by Andrew Ardizzoia
6. “Polka” from the Golden Age Ballet by Dmitri Shostakovich/arr. Matthew Coley
7. “Farandole” from Arlésienne Suite No. 2 by Georges Bizet/arr. Daniel Krumm