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Timpani in the symphony

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A Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) musician said playing the drums is more than just hitting the instrument with a couple of sticks.

Jeremy Epp, 31, plays the timpani in the orchestra. Timpani are kettledrums, with a skin called a head stretched over a large bowl. Playing the timpani involves methodically hitting the head with a special type of drumstick.

Originally from North Kildonan, Epp, now a West Broadway resident, said he knew from a young age that he wanted to play the drums.

"I was always banging on pots and pans as a kid," Epp recalled.

Epp played piano when he was five-years-old. He eventually started drumming when he was in Grade 7. After high school, Epp earned a position as a substitute musician for the WSO, playing percussion instruments.

He attended the Cleveland Institute of Music in Cleveland, Ohio, focusing on the timpani, and just as his program was coming to an end, a job position opened up at the WSO. Hired in 2010, Epp is now in his fourth season with the orchestra.

Epp said he feels the timpani drives the orchestra.

"I also feel like (the timpani) has the ability to add something to the whole orchestra in a way that no other instrument really does. I can obviously play really loud but it can also add texture and support for the orchestra and be the backbone of the ensemble," Epp said.

According to the timpanist, playing the drums well means complementing what the other musicians are doing.

"One of the toughest things is learning how to create a controlled sound that enhances what your colleagues are doing. The rest of the instrument is learning about styles and sounds you’d want to create based on what composer you’re playing or what time period you’re playing from," Epp said.

Epp said he works five days a week, and in addition to that he is always doing something that involves music, whether it’s practising his own craft or rehearsing music for upcoming performances.

"I have no plans to do anything other than music," Epp said.

For more information, visit wso.ca

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