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  • Musicians of the NSO

Musician Monday: Rich Graber

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Rich Graber is a native of Pembroke Pines, Florida. He is currently the Assistant Principal Percussionist with the Nashville Symphony.

Mr. Graber studied with John Beck at the Eastman School of Music for his undergraduate degree. He then continued his studies with Christopher Lamb at the Manhattan School of Music for his Masters of Music. He has been a member of the New World Symphony from 1998-1999 and the Louisiana Philharmonic from 1999 to 2006. His wife Deborah Loach is also a percussionist and performs with him in chamber and orchestral ensembles.

𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙩𝙞𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙙𝙧𝙚𝙬 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙩𝙤 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙮 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙘𝙪𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣?

I was drawn to percussion in large part because of my family, particularly on my Mom's side. My Grandma bought a drum for me and I showed interest. My Grandfather played a few instruments including trumpet and saxophone. Although he didn't play professionally, he nurtured my desire to play music at a young age. I even played a bit with a community band to learn how people work together as an ensemble, even before attending high school. I wasn't necessarily the most outgoing kid, so I liked playing from the back of the band in a way. Percussion has so many interesting facets to it that I was kind of a "kid in a candy shop" musically.

𝙊𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙢𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪'𝙧𝙚 𝙚𝙭𝙥𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙢, 𝙙𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙖 𝙛𝙖𝙫𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙚, 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙬𝙝𝙮?

It's not easy picking a favorite percussion instrument and it would be easy for me to say snare drum, which I love playing. But I really enjoy tambourine and cymbals. Maybe it's because they are overlooked a little compared to snare or timpani or mallet instruments. I studied a bit with a Brazilian percussionist at Eastman and the tambourine they use in Brazil is called a pandeiro. There are some amazing things that can be played on this instrument and you can relate that to orchestral tambourine playing as well. I love cymbals because they add so much color and power at those big orchestral moments. It's also cool to make a couple of pieces of metal sound musical.

𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙞𝙩 𝙡𝙞𝙠𝙚 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙘𝙪𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙖𝙣 𝙤𝙧𝙘𝙝𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙖?

My main goal is to make whatever I play fit and blend into the style and flow that the other instruments in the orchestra do. String bowings remind me of stickings for percussion. Winds and brass breathe and phrase a certain way that I work to react to. Our mallet instruments are set up like the piano, with the natural and accidental keys from low to high, left to right. Harp reminds me of timpani because of the pedals and dampening that is required to tune and articulate. Understanding how other instruments work is so necessary for a percussionist to support the sound of the orchestra.

𝘼𝙧𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙗𝙪𝙘𝙠𝙚𝙩-𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙬𝙤𝙧𝙠𝙨 𝙤𝙧 𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙝𝙤𝙥𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙮 𝙨𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙙𝙖𝙮?

I have been fortunate to play some amazing percussion parts in my career, including snare on Bolero and Scheherazade, xylophone on Porgy and Bess, bass drum on Rite of Spring, and many others. There are a few pieces I look forward to performing at some point. Some of them would include xylophone for Bartok's Strings, Percussion and Celesta, snare drum on Ravel's Alborada del Gracioso, tambourine on Ibert's Escales, pretty much anything on Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky, just to name a few.

𝘿𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙛𝙖𝙫𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙚 𝙢𝙚𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙎𝙮𝙢𝙥𝙝𝙤𝙣𝙮?

There have been so many highlights here with the Nashville Symphony. Carnegie Hall in 2012 was a blast. Performing with my teacher at Manhattan School of Music, Chris Lamb, for the Schwantner percussion concerto was truly amazing. Another great experience was with Branford Marsalis when we performed "Escapades" from John Williams’ “Catch Me If You Can” soundtrack. I could just barely keep up with him!

𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙙𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙡𝙞𝙠𝙚 𝙢𝙤𝙨𝙩 𝙖𝙗𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝙉𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙫𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙚?

I really appreciate how friendly people are here in Nashville and the scenery is so beautiful with the hills and greenery. The orchestra is such a wonderful group of people and interacting with them has given me so much joy.

𝙃𝙤𝙬 𝙙𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙥𝙖𝙨𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚 𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙨𝙞𝙙𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙤𝙧𝙘𝙝𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙖 𝙡𝙞𝙛𝙚, 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙝𝙤𝙗𝙗𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙖𝙬𝙖𝙮 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙨?

I also perform concerts with my wife, Debi Loach, in orchestral and chamber music. We met in college and it's always great to rehearse and perform music with her. I have a number of non-musical interests as well including aviation, and I went through a big sports phase as well. Movies used to interest me as a kid and in fact, the music to Star Wars just happened to come out when I started learning percussion. I wore that record out from so much listening and it was amazing to meet John Williams here recently when we performed his music for the opening Gala. Nowadays, I've taken more of an interest in nature, animals, the environment, and weather. I love being outside (mostly when it's warm), and I've been known to do the occasional stargazing as well.

𝙏𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙠 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙨𝙤 𝙢𝙪𝙘𝙝 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚! 𝘼𝙣𝙮 𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙬𝙤𝙧𝙙𝙨?

It's been great sharing some of my life interests with you and hope to see everyone at our concerts in the near future. The audience is so crucial to music-making. I have a lot of great recordings but it's not the same experience as performing live and it's always a thrill to engage in music at the highest level.

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