Recent Gigs!

Hi all!

Had a blast playing with Shane Summers last week!  We played Third Rail by John Ling and had such a good time we are planning on putting a while program together!  How cool!

Lynn and Shane

Also, Kevin Bobo was in residence at SUU last week as well!  The student enjoyed him so much and he had us laughing and sharing all great things about music!


On and while I was in LA a few weeks ago I did a masterclass at Cal State Fullerton!  What a great studio!


Its been a busy but very inspiring time!


I Love LA!

Don’t I say that every time??? Well its so true!!! I just returned from a fantastic week in LA and enjoyed great music, great friends and great food! I recorded with Wadada Leo Smith and also spent some time in Pasadena and Santa Monica, including the Venice canals!! My friend Joan has promised me some surfing lessons next time!!! What could be better?




Stop, Collaborate. Listen sign

The #1 Way to Become a Better Musician

What would you guess is one of the best ways to grow as a musician? Practice more? Get a better instrument? Get paid more money? Of course those are great ways, but for me collaborating with other musicians has been invaluable for my musical growth. Here’s why:

Pushes you past your boundaries

Lynn Vartan performs with Wadada Leo Smith

Performing with Wadada Leo Smith

Other musicians have a different set of boundaries with their music and it is unlikely they are the same as yours so collaborating will force you to push yourself in a new direction. That definitely happened to me when I performed with Pulitzer Prize finalist Wadada Leo Smith. Wadada  is known for his avant-garde jazz and improvisation. His style inspired me to bring more improvisation to my performances and to not be afraid to be more adventurous with my music.

Teaches you new techniques

Working with new artists means you also learn new ways to play, compose, perform and incorporate technology to give it a fresh sound. This past April I had my premiere performance of “Machine Shop,” a new composition for marimba and recorded electric guitar written by composer Daniel Sonenberg. This collaboration started with the concept of merging classical and rock music. Soneberg decided to do it in two steps. First, he recorded the electric guitar and layered it into multiple parts. Then I performed my marimba portion live with the prerecorded guitar. It was daunting to play live to music with someone that I never even met. However, as I took the stage I felt like the guitarist was right there with me as we merged our sounds together to create a beautiful, new composition.

Keeps you motivated

Keep Going signWe all have our down days when we just can’t come up with a single note or have no energy and just want to crawl back in bed. When working with other musicians you have a built-in support system. They can act as a cheerleader to help you keep going, offer suggestions for ways to improve your music that takes you in a better direction or even watching their process of creating can inspire you get back on track.

Opens your mind

Musician Pino Forastiere

The inspiring Pino Forastiere

Even something seemingly insignificant can inspire you while collaborating with others. It can be a single sound, an image, or even a conversation. One day I hanging out with a friend and he had me listen to some folk music from Armenia. After listening to that song, I explored more traditional folk music from around the world, which then inspired me to transcribe guitar folk music by composers from Paraguay, Argentina, Italy and Armenia for marimba. If I hadn’t collaborated with others previously, I doubt I would have had the confidence to try blending those diverse genres.

Stop, Collaborate. Listen sign

photo by wonderferret via flickr

So if you’re feeling stuck, want to try something new or get out of your comfort zone, reach out to other artists to help you grow in ways you could never imagine and become a better musician.

More lobster please!

I love visiting Maine and have been lucky enough to be able to collaborate with great musicians there on a regular basis! This past April was one of those great times! I spent the week rehearsing and also premiering a brand new piece that I love called Machine Shop, written by Dan Sonenberg for marimba and electronics where the electronics are all


heavy metal guitar! Aaron Clarke mastered and layered all the guitar playing and it came out soooo great! We recorded the new piece plus 41 Fathead for piano and percussion with my deal friend Bridget Convey!


41 Fathead Percussion Setup

Oh and of course I ate lobster and seafood!


Amazing meal at Tao!

I love LA!

It is always so great to get back to LA to experience great music and great food! I played concerts with my buddies from the Tala Rasa Trio and did masterclasses throughout the week. And of course ate great food the whole time including the fabled ramen burger! A special moment was attending the Varied Trio concert at the gorgeous Villa Aurora in the Palisades above Malibu! Heard great music including premieres by Jason Heath and David Aman. Both pieces were great! And of course, I cried several times during the Varied Trio by Lou Harrison….I just love that piece so much! Here are some moments from the week in photos!

The Villa Aurora


Villa Aurora

Ramen burger!


Ramen burger!

At the Bodega in Pasadena


At the Bodega in Pasadena

Ramen at Apricott in Pasadena


Ramen at Apricott

Before my masterclass at CSULB


Before my masterclass at CSULB

Late night macaroons!


Late night Macaroons!

The glowing heel outside my hotel room in Vegas!


The glowing heel outside my hotel in Vegas!

Utah house jam!!!


Utah house jam!!!

See you soon!!

Harry Partch Gourd Tree and Cone Gongs

Old and Rare Instruments Make a Comeback in Modern Music

Harry Partch Gourd Tree and Cone Gongs

Eager to create fresh sounds and unique compositions, musicians are turning to old or rarely used instruments to add breadth to their live shows and recordings. There is a wide array of instruments being resurrected from primitive tools to even combining different instruments into one to create something completely new. Here are just some of the instruments making a comeback.

A Musical UFO

Personally, I am a huge fan of hang drum because there is no right or wrong way to play it leaving you free to experiment and come up with your own tones. The hang drum, pronounced “hung” which translates to “hand” in Bernese, is played with fingertips, thumbs, and/or the heel of the palm.

Hang DrumAlthough relatively new, having been developed in Switzerland in 2000, the hang drum meshes traditional instruments from around the world like the steel pan, gongs, Gamelan (Indonesian percussive instruments), drums, and even cowbells. Looking like a small UFO, this instrument is comprised of two hollow steel shells bonded together. The top or Ding side contains eight tone fields that form the “tone circle” creating a sound similar to a gong. On the bottom or Gu side there is a hand-sized hole that can be played like an udu (a Nigerian water jug) to make water droplet sounds or can be used to modulate the sound of the Ding.

Cranking It Out

The 1,000 year old hurdy gurdy is probably one of the oldest and most obscure instruments making a comeback. The name hurdy gurdy is thought to be derived from the term “hurly-burly” meaning noise or commotion and the instrument itself looks like something concocted in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab.

Hurdy Gurdy

Sometimes called a “wheel fiddle,” the most unique aspect of this instrument is the fact that it uses a hand-cranked wheel to rub the strings much like the fiddle of a violin. Three different sets of strings, Melody, Drone and Buzzing Bridge, each produce very different sounds. The Melody is a wooden keyboard that alters the pitch of violin sounds, the Drone produces a continuous sound like a bagpipe, and the Buzzing Bridge or dog as it commonly called because it sounds like a barking dog. This complicated instrument originally required two people to play it and could only be used for slow music, but today, you hear this now solo instrument used by musicians in folk, dance, contemporary and world music because of variety of sounds it can produce.

A Partch-work of Instruments

Harry Partch's Gourd Tree

Harry Partch playing the Gourd Tree

Partch: Plectra & Percussion Dances, among this year’s Grammy Nominees for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance and Best Classical Compendium, uses not only the compositions of the revolutionary Harry Partch, but also utilizes some of the 27 instruments Partch designed himself in the 1950s and 60s.

These instruments were specifically made to allow for tuning and scales more suitable to singing versus the standard instrumental-focused, twelve-tone equal temperament that had been used for centuries. Some of his inventions, like the Chromelodeon, have as many as 43 tones in a single “octave.” Many of Partch’s designs, some looking like they belong in a Dr. Seuss tale, were modified versions of existing instruments like viola, cello, organ, marimba, guitar, gongs, and xylophone mixed with common items like wine bottles, bowls, eucalyptus branches, aircraft nosecones, artillery shell casings, hubcaps and even light bulbs.

Looking Back to Move Forward

When looking for a new sound you don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel, but you can repurpose or modify existing historical instruments to create a fresh and unique sound all your own. Or if all else fails you can do what these guys did…

Will orchestras become extinct?

Disney Concert Hall Los Angeles

I often hear that one of the reasons people don’t attend classical concerts is that they feel no connection to the music or to the composers who created it hundreds of years ago. That’s understandable. Another common complaint is that it is just too expensive and a luxury only the wealthy can afford. With so many other forms of entertainment vying for our time, it’s getting harder and harder for orchestras to stay afloat. In order to survive, the definition of an orchestral experience has to evolve and expand beyond the traditional concert hall.

The Simpsons at Hollywood Bowl

Forget classical music??

One tactic used to help make going to see a symphony more accessible is to perform music that a wider audience would recognize like popular movie soundtracks or classical versions of current songs. While successful, these types of shows aren’t usually enough to sustain an entire season. Perhaps bringing in film and television composers to create original pieces for orchestras, incorporating newer instruments and technologies, could keep the sound fresh and more relatable?

Orchestra with Lights

Make it stimulating

At one of my recent performances of the Canyon Concerto, we showed a slideshow of the Utah national parks that each part of the concerto was named after to the whole audience in the hopes to connect the audience and the musicians to the music. Use of video has become a popular tool for orchestras to maintain the engagement of people who are used to watching things on screen. Now companies are taking it even further by commissioning fine artists to create custom imagery to match the mood of the symphony.

Street musicians in Prague

Take it to the people!

If people aren’t coming to watch symphonies then we need to bring the orchestra to the public. Organizations like Groupmuse and Sofar are hosting shows in homes, parks, libraries and other common spaces. Live concert streams via social media platforms like Facebook. And some companies even allow audience members to live tweet about the concert they are watching to give those who aren’t there a sense of the experience. Any way we can expose more people to live classical performances, the more likely we will create new fans, including those who never thought they could enjoy classical music.

Conducting robot

What does the future hold…

In order to keep classical concerts alive we have to keep experimenting with different ways make orchestras relevant. teamLab, a digital art collective in Japan, recently debuted a ROBOT that conducts an electric orchestra and starting this month, the LA Philharmonic will be incorporating video projected on the ENTIRE concert hall that will react in real time to the music being played! Interactive, high tech and non traditional venues seem to be the wave of the future, but what do you think will help bring back people to orchestra experience? I’d love to hear your ideas.

“I will what I want”

As summer seems to be spiraling closer and closer to the beginning of the school year, I usually am particularly alert for inspiration.  This week I found it in the form of an underwear ad campaign (!) –  from the ‘Under Armour’ brand!

This features Misty Copeland, lead soloist for the elite American Ballet theatre.  The video is her dancing, amazingly, with the full display of her athleticism and grace.  The voiceover is a young girl, reciting several negative comments all on why Misty should be rejected completely as a ballerina.  The words are actual words she received in rejection during her formative years.  They are hearbreaking.

This got me thinking a lot about talent, work ethic, and identity.

What is the magic balance between these things?  Is there a magic balance?  And where does “will” fit in?  How do I feel about myself and these things?  Would I have had the same will and determination that Misty had in the face of such rejection?  Do you?

The end of the campaign has the tagline “I will what I want,” which I have decided is my new motto for the next months.  I like to think it comes from the beloved “What you will” quote and sentiment from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, where identity and will are brought together and challenged in this same way.

In any case, I invite you to consider these questions as well:  “what do you will?” and then feel free to also embrace “I will what I want” as you embark on your creative, business and personal endeavors this week.

And of course, just enjoy how much of a badass Misty Copeland is!!!!! :)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania trip

This week I traveled to Willow Grove just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and visited one of the greatest percussion companies in the US, Steve Weiss Music!

As part of the Marimba One team, I was there to premiere and play the new and totally amazing “Izzy” marimba. We spent the day with all the Steve Weiss people and had a great time talking about marimbas and music in general! We played the “Izzy”, discussed all the new innovations and attributes of the new marimba and frame, and also talked about all the Marimba One mallets. Over a great, wonderfully catered barbecue with everybody there, we had a great discussion on all things percussion – it was a really fun sharing of information. One of the cool things about ordering your marimba through Steve Weiss Music is that they offer an exclusive resonator color – aged copper. It was actually the first time I have seen the Steve Weiss color, and it is absolutely gorgeous! Check out the Steve Weiss website to find a picture of this exclusively distributed instrument.

During the visit we had a chance to talk about my forthcoming new to be released mallets. I can’t say anything more at this stage about my signature mallets, other than to say we have incorporated some innovations and some things that are completely new to Marimba One mallets. I’m SO excited about this that I can’t even contain myself; so more of that over the coming weeks!!!!

Famous Philly Steak Sandwich Pure indulgence! Burger & fries, can't eat it all ! Joy & TimI had some great meals away from home, staying an extra day to catch up with friends and doing some sightseeing. It was a great week in Pennsylvania!