Alexi Hummings is a percussionist studying Music Performance at the Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State. They are now in their second year and have had the privilege of playing with many fine ensembles at the school including the Percussion Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Steely Pan Steel Band, and Symphony Orchestra. While their goal is to tackle the world through music discovering versatility in sounds, styles, and instruments, Alexi has always been drawn to melodic sounds like the piano, marimba, and vibraphone, recently delving into the sounds of jazz vibraphone and piano.
R!S: How do you find new pieces that you are interested in playing? What factors do you consider when seeking out and/or choosing new solo or chamber repertoire?
Alexi Hummings: When it comes to finding new pieces to play, I like to let my ear lead the way. I’ll ask friends and instructors for recommendations and try to find recordings on YouTube. Pieces that engage my passion as well as my technical abilities are going to be the most fulfilling pieces to work on.
R!S: What changes about the way you play a piece as you “live” with it for a while? Do you typically perform a piece once or multiple times?
AH: After sitting with a piece for a while, it starts to fall into muscle memory and my focus is less on the notes and more on how I can express what I feel in the moment through the gestures and phrases of the piece. It becomes more improvised in a way, like a response to my environment and a product of my emotional state. I love to preform pieces more than once; the more I perform a piece, the more it seems to become a part of me.
R!S: In what ways is your instructor involved in your repertoire selection?
AH: My instructor is fairly involved in my repertoire selection. I look to him for recommendations if I’m looking for a specific style of music or a solo on a specific instrument. He has a lot of knowledge of composers and many books to pull from that can be helpful.
R!S: Do you finish every piece that you start to learn? If not, why not? If a piece seems like a poor fit or you struggle unusually with a piece, how do you proceed? Do you “bail” on the selection, or what changes do you make to allow yourself to complete it?
AH: Sometimes I come across a piece that I feel like I don’t connect with. There could be many reasons for that. Maybe the harmonic or melodic material isn’t very stimulating, or maybe I’m having technical problems and I’m just not quite ready to tackle those things. When I need to put a piece down for a while, I like to give myself the freedom to say, “This isn’t working right now; I’ll pick it up again later.” I’ve had a few pieces I put down for weeks or months even, and when I went back to them I was able to find something new and exciting I might not have noticed before, and the piece was then so much easier to play.
R!S: What is one particularly favorite piece of repertoire you’ve performed and why?
AH: One of my favorite pieces of repertoire I’ve performed was “Rendezvous” by Dave Samuels. I performed it during my first semester with the Appalachian State Percussion Ensemble, and it was such a fun piece to play. Anything I can dance to I can play, and let me tell you, I was dancing on that stage! The piece was so fun to work on because it was exciting and challenging enough that I felt like there was always more to discover as far as ways to approach it technically and expressively.