Percussionist Ian Pappas isn’t big on self-aggrandizement. Whereas many musicians would consider a performance at Carnegie Hall to be the apex of their life’s work, the Loyola Academy student discusses it as you or I would pontificate about a trip to the laundromat.
Pappas was selected through faculty recommendation and an audition tape to play at the American High School Honors Performance Series at the venerable New York institution on Feb. 19. Pappas' band director, Corey Ames, said that each music faculty member can nominate up to five students for the performance.
“Ian is one of the best musicians I’ve ever known at the High School level,” said Ames, who directs Pappas in Loyola Academy's Symphonic Band. “He’s constantly entering himself into competitions.”
Pappas is also winning them.
As an eighth-grader, he won the Walgreen’s Concerto Competition on four-mallet marimba. “There are many high school percussionists who can’t hack four-mallet marimba, so the fact that he was able to win a regional competition in 8th grade is pretty impressive stuff,” Ames told Patch. Ian has also won the VanderCook College of Music soloist of the day award two years running and plays in the Midwest Young Artists Percussion Ensemble.
Pappas has recently been selected to perform in the prestigious Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. He auditioned in the top CYSO ensemble, competing against upperclassmen percussionists from across the nation.
“The audition was pretty relaxed, actually,” the soft-spoken sophomore admits. “We are playing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in April at Symphony Center and in June at Millenium Park. It’s pretty cool.”
Starting his musical career as a 4-year-old pianist, Pappas concedes that he doesn’t really come from a musical family. “My aunt was a percussionist and she recommended that I give that section of the orchestra a try.”
His main instrument is the marimba, a very large wooden member of the xylophone family that has the same keyboard structure as the piano. Marimba repertoire is limited, however, so he also plays several other percussion instruments, notably the snare drum.
A member of Loyola Academy’s water polo, swimming and sailing teams, he takes private music lessons from David Eisenreich, a graduate student at Northwestern University. He draws inspiration from the music of She-e Wu, a marimba soloist and associate professor of percussion at Northwestern. “I have a marimba at home and I try to practice every day just to keep loose. If there’s a competition coming up I’ll spend more time on music but I don’t really have a set practice schedule, per se.”
With two years of high school remaining, Pappas certainly has some time to decide whether he wants to make music performance a career. “If I don’t major in music, I’d definitely like to minor in it; I plan to keep playing either way,” he said.