I write this month’s Member Spotlight from the first person, certainly a change of pace, but since I am writing about myself, I hope you can appreciate and allow the indulgence. The whole point of this section of our newsletter and website is, specifically, to personify the Member-in-Question; since writing about myself in the third person somewhat de-personifies, I elect to tell my personal story from my own perspective.
My name is T.J. Troy, and I have performed in PARTCH Ensemble since 2003. Primarily, my instrument is the Bass Marimba, but in recent years, I have been singing more often, and occasionally, when needs arise, I fill in on Adapted Guitar. I also currently serve the role of President of PARTCH Ensemble.
I was born in Wenatchee, WA, a small town less than 40,000 people in north central Washington. I was born the youngest of six children, each of us playing a musical instrument; my grandfather was a semi-professional drummer in the Seattle area (note - a few years ago, we found a ledger that he kept, detailing the amount of money he was paid, in 1950s dollars, for every gig he played), and he always told us, point blank, to never play the drums. Play the flute, or the trumpet...play an instrument that is easy to carry, he preached. I heard him, but I never listened.
My eldest brother received a drumset for Christmas one year; the remaining brothers were enamored with it, determined to sneak into his room in the off hours and learn how to play it. I was 4 years old when I first began to teach myself how to play, with legs that could not reach the foot pedals. Here is where my journey with the drums began.
I experienced a paradigm shift once arriving in Ann Arbor, MI to pursue a Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Michigan, under the tutelage of Prof. Michael Udow. He worked to impress upon his students the value of the found object: any sound could be used to make music, provided the context surrounding that object was properly oriented. Udow introduced me to composer Harry Partch’s work, whose personal inventive spirit seemed to echo Udow’s, especially valuing the found object aesthetic at the core of our instrument family. I heard U.S. Highball and Barstow and was intrigued, but with only one set of instruments in the world, there would be no way to study this music unless I went to SUNY Purchase (where Dean Drummond kept the Partch collection at this time); that’s not to say I didn’t consider it (because I did), but California called and I answered, as the memory of the west coast bore itself deep. I moved to California in 1999, and after finishing graduate studies at CalArts, I decided to stay.
I was introduced to John Schneider in 2003: he had a new instrument in his small but determined collection of Partch-designed instruments, and he needed a player. I came onboard the same year as Nick Terry. From then on, it seemed that we played concerts for a select few; we were certainly growing in our artistic capacity, but our band lacked direction, and as ensemble members, we collectively yearned for more…
John Schneider and I worked closely for many years, as we rehearsed and stored his instruments in my house: for every concert, we would work to set up the instruments, then once the concert concluded, we would tear them down and store them. This activity gave us time to talk, and mostly we discussed music, but in the process of learning more about one another, John began picking up on a second skill set: I have worked with several different non-profit organizations, mostly surrounding music and its performance, and have served as a board member and at various leadership capacities. Knowing that our group needed a formal direction, John asked me to lead the group in late 2018.
Partch’s music is invigorating and thrilling to play, and I am most pleased to be sharing the experience of high-energy performances with the members of PARTCH Ensemble. It is but one of many outlets of inspiration that my daily artistic practices imbibe me with, of which there are many...but the core of it is a simple concept: take any object and make music with it. Harry Partch and I have that much in common, at least.
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