Percussionist slams four mallets on the marimba

Spinnaker

By Dargan Thompson, Contributing Writer

William Kaczmarek steps into the practice room and takes off his shoes.

“I canʼt play with my shoes on,” he said.

A look of concentration comes over his face as he stands over the marimba, two mallets in each hand.

Kaczmarek, a UNF percussion performance junior, begins to play. His mallets fly over the instrument, hitting the wooden bars with precision.

The sheet music for the six-page solo sits across the room. He doesnʼt look at it once.

Kaczmarek said playing music comes naturally to him.

He began playing music in elementary school when his grandmother gave him a
keyboard for Christmas. He never took any lessons — he taught himself.

Kaczmarek started playing percussion his freshman year of high school when he joined
marching band.

“I really fell in love with it,” he said, “so I kept it up and starting playing some solos.”

Kaczmarek said the switch from piano to mallets was fairly easy. Some of the other
percussion instruments, however, were more difficult to learn. As with piano, he mainly taught himself.

“We didnʼt really have a good music department at my high school,” he said, “so a lot of it was just looking through books and teaching myself as much as I could.”

During his senior year of high school, Kaczmarek auditioned for the music department at UNF.

He said he chose to pursue music because he was good at it.

“Itʼs just something I didnʼt have to put a whole lot of effort into to get a lot of results out of,” he said.

As part of the percussion department, Kaczmarek said he has to play a little bit of
everything, but he focuses on the marimba.

“Thatʼs definitely the niche Iʼve carved out for myself,” he said.

Kaczmarek said he tries to get in as much practice time as possible.

“I get over here at oʼdark-thirty and then leave at midnight,” he said.

He is working on several pieces to use for auditions to graduate school and said he plans
on applying to Juilliard, University of Southern California and several other top-tier
music schools.

“My dream job would be touring as a solo performer,” he said, “doing guest gigs with big symphonies and just playing marimba for the rest of my life.”

But, he said, there is not much of a demand for that, so after grad school he plans on joining an orchestra or possibly teaching at the college level.

Kaczmarek said the UNF percussion professors have helped him improve significantly. Kevin Garry helped him with his technique, he said, and Charlotte Mabry, head of the percussion department, has taught him plenty about how to be a musical performer.

One of Kaczmarekʼs biggest influences, composer and percussionist Casey Cangelosi, performed at UNF last month. Kaczmarek took a few lessons with him before Cangelosi played a concert.

“Heʼs definitely my idol of the percussion world,” Kaczmarek said.

The UNF percussion ensemble, which Kaczmarek is a part of, has a concert Nov. 21.
Kaczmarek’s required junior recital is Nov. 5. Heʼs also having a solo recital in the spring “just for fun.”

“Iʼm pretty much just going for it in my spring recital and playing the hardest pieces I know.”

Email Dargan Thompson [email protected]