Marimba Virtuoso Looks To 'Transform The Status Of The Marimba'
— Innovative Educator and Award Winner Plays Yamaha Exclusively —
Considered by many to be among the most creative percussionists on the music scene today, Simon Boyar has recently signed as a Yamaha Performing Artist. At just 25-years-old, the marimba virtuoso's resume reads like that of a musician more than twice his age. Electrifying audiences with his performances, Boyar also seeks to expand the repertory, perception and setting of the modern marimba, to spotlight it – literally and figuratively – as a solo instrument, and to incorporate it into the mainstream musical landscape.
A 2003 graduate of The Juilliard School of Music, Boyar presented the world premiere of marimba works by Javier Diaz, David Eddleman and Davide Zannoni while still in school. In late 2005, he was the featured guest artist with the Korean Symphony in Seoul, performing the Loving Mad Tom marimba concerto by Andrew Thomas, one of the most revered marimba composers in the world. A few months later, he traveled to Poland to craft the first-ever recording of this ground-breaking work with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Katowice. While there, he also recorded Thomas' double concerto for guitar/percussion, The Heroic Triad, with classical guitar virtuoso David Leisner. He was a member of the progressive Gotham5 classical ensemble, which performed at Studio 54, and has been a guest soloist with the Exit 9 Percussion Group. As a featured guest artist on marimba and percussion, he has appeared with the New Jersey Symphony, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and the Juilliard Orchestra, among others.
Classical, jazz, hip-hop, pop and R&B are among the many genres in which Boyar excels as a live performer, lyricist, self-producer and recording artist for such labels as Naxos, API Records, Opus One and EMW Records. As a freelance marimbist and percussionist, he has performed under the baton of conductors like Kurt Masur, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, John Adams and Lukas Foss, and alongside performers such as Emmanuel Ax, Evelyn Glennie, and Joshua Bell. Boyar has served as chairman of the Juilliard Pre-College Percussion Department, the youngest person ever to be named to this position, for which he created an innovative program focusing on all areas of percussion. In February 2007, he was the featured soloist with violinist Guillermo Figueroa and the American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leon Botstein for the world premiere of a double violin/percussion concerto. "As a true and proud American artist, I grew up listening to grunge, hip hop, metal, jazz, prog rock and everything else on the radio...not only classical music," says Boyar. "Now in my mid twenties, the influences from my past are coming to fruition."
Boyar was recently featured on the NPR show "All Things Considered," for breaking new ground in percussive music making. In addition, Boyar has personally commissioned Frank Zappa's "Revised Music for Guitar and Low Budget Orchestra" to be arranged for Marimba and Orchestra by Tom Trapp (orchestrator for Steve Vai), with plans for a debut late this year or early next. His first book, "The Boyar Method," is set to be completed this fall, and under the direction of percussionist Jonathan Haas, the NYU percussion department has given him his own ensemble – "The NYU Contemporary Marimba Ensemble."
"I play in a variety of musical settings," states Boyar. "Whether a concerto appearance, club gig, private lesson, television appearance or recording session, I need to have the ability to be myself at all times. As the only instrument manufacturer truly engaged in all aspects of the music industry, Yamaha understands that the individual player must come first. It is for this reason I choose Yamaha. I should not have to adjust to my instrument. My instrument should adjust to me…period."
Among his many honors, Boyar won first place in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Auditions and The Juilliard Concerto Competition, and was a finalist in the prestigious Kingsville International Concerto Competition. At Juilliard, his awards included the Pfeiffenberger Memorial Scholarship, the William R. Hearst Scholarship, the E.M. Satterlee Scholarship, The Irving Ruckens Scholarship and The Henry Alderman Trust. His teachers have included David Fein, Greg Giannascoli, Greg Zuber and the legendary Joe Morello. He is an alumnus of The Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps Drum Line 96-97, which is part of the Drum Corps International Circuit.
"I am seeking to find a new home for the marimba away, from the educational and pseudo classical stage," says Boyar. "I firmly believe that if we wish to advance the instrument further, a change in direction is needed in order to bring the marimba to a wider public appreciation. In my mind and sonic vision I place the marimba alongside groove instruments such as drums, guitar, bass, and synths. I don't think about what is deemed ‘right and wrong' for the marimba when I write or play, so it's very hard to categorize my music and sound. I play classical one day, hip-hop the next, and jam out after that. For me, music must be larger than genre and categorization so I play everything from the classical concerto stage leading an orchestra to the club scene with my band. Therefore, I will continue to work to change the perception and status of the marimba because I believe the very future of the instrument depends on it."