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Piano-percussion duo hits Iowa City

BY JOSIE JONES | JANUARY 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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Jeffery Meyer’s interest in music began in fourth grade when he heard a peer play the Star Wars theme song on the violin. Growing from lightsabers to drums and keyboards, his musical influences changed. At the age of 15, he took piano lessons from a “serious teacher” who opened him to the world of classical music.

Meyer is a member of the piano-percussion Strike Duo, along with longtime friend Paul Vaillancourt. The Strike Duo will perform at 7:30 p.m. today in 1670 University Capitol Centre. Admission is free.

Tonight’s show, part of the Center for New Music’s current season, is the final stop in the duo’s four-concert tour. The two will perform four of the five works from their début album, Convergence.

Meyer and Vaillancourt first met around 16 years ago in graduate school at Stony Brook University, in New York. Despite not having any classes together, the two met through playing — Vaillancourt ran the contemporary ensemble in which Meyer played.

Strike Duo was officially formed seven years ago. Because both performers hold university and other various jobs, they perform only a few times a year together.

The genre of a piano-percussion duo is a modern kind of collaboration, so the two came together to make a dent in the field’s history.

“We had similar ideas on new music and similar tastes, and that’s always important,” Meyer said. “If you don’t agree on what good music is, it’s going to be a disaster.”

The two prefer playing together rather than solo shows. They are both attracted to the collaborative process of being in a duo.

“It’s not such a lonely process,” Meyer said. “You get to rehearse with somebody, you get to share ideas, you get to share energy. And when you’re performing together, it’s the same thing.”

When the pair began exploring ideas for their album, they searched for interesting composers as well as a combination of works that would make a convincing whole product in terms of style.

Even with an satisfying album, the two recruited an array of composers. Meyer met one — Brooke Joyce — during his undergraduate career, and he continues to be a fan of Joyce’s music. Also contributing was international composer Chen Yi, who gave the album a different kind of style by incorporating material from Chinese folk music. The duo’s favorite piece is by Daniel Koontz, a mutual friend from Stony Brook.

“We identify with all of the pieces in different ways,” Meyer said. “We feel like we got very lucky because there isn’t a piece in this group that we don’t want to perform. They all provide challenges artistically and technically. It’s really quite a pleasure to play.”


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