Marimba musician shares experience, technique

Dave Irving practices most nights in his apartment.

Dave Irving stands in his room at his Baltimore apartment, free from distraction and discomfort.

His hands grip four long yarn mallets as he plants his body in front of the 60-key instrument to practice an upcoming recital piece – a song that’s taken him a mere four months to master. Carefully embracing each of the keys with the mallets, he sways back and forth to the rhythm of Virginia Tate, a melodically dynamic tune written for his instrument.

The nearly 8-foot instrument of hard rosewood keys is what really makes this Towson University junior enjoy the world of music.

He’s been playing for 13 years. And in recent years he’s had more than 30 different instruments to hi name – all of which fit his style of percussion and ensemble performance.

He is unlike other musicians who find their own music mesmerizing. To him, playing and performing is all about precision and focus.

“When I play solos I really concentrate on what I’m doing and where I need to go next,” he says. “It’s not only about your hands. You have to figure out where your arms are going to go, where your wrists are going to go, where your feet are going to go, where you’re going to put your body weight.”

So when asked if playing music takes him to another state of mind, he explained that instead, for him, it’s just “hardcore mental focus.”

Ranging from his collection of timpani and bass drums, nothing gets more attention than his marimba.

“It’s a lot of fun and it’s really challenging and I like challenging stuff. Plus, it sounds really pretty,” he says.

He said he’s wanted the instrument for several years now and considering it’s $10,000 price tag, it came as great appreciation.

“My parents got it for me. It cost them 10 grand … more than your life … more than my life,” he jokes. “It was kind of a present for the rest of my life.”

And for the rest of his life, he dreams of being a member of a world-renowned symphony orchestra but knows the industry is extremely competitive.

Therefore he’s a music education major now for obvious reasons. He said he will be comfortable being a music teacher since it is a good fall back career, though he will still continue to perform on the side no matter what.

When talking about his track for education, the conversation doesn’t go far. But get him rolling on music performance and his face brightens up the room and all the instruments that surround him.

Sitting down, he glances over to the black, decorative musical notes that line the walls of his room.

He stands up from his chair and goes back to his Marimba. His next recital is only a week away.

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