049 Marc Damoulakis: Thoughtful Learning Through Strong Fundamentals & Sound Conception

The Mind Over Finger Podcast

Nov 1 2019 • 46 mins

In this episode, Marc Damoulakis, principal percussionist with the Cleveland Orchestra, discusses the importance of mindful exploration, flexibility, and patience in the learning process, time management, how to create a connection between our concept of sound and the motions necessary to execute that vision successfully, and he sends us off with very wise parting words!

He elaborates on:

  • How being competitive with himself helped him get to the next level in his career and how a healthy competitive mindset can be helpful to grow as a musician
  • The learning process behind mastering so many instruments
  • How learning other instruments can help us make new neural connections and expand our skills on our main instrument
  • The Importance of not skipping over fundamentals and developing the patience to go through the necessary process
  • Time management skills for students
  • Incorporating a solid routine for daily practice
  • Physical connection that learning entails: understanding “when it feels like this, it sounds like this”
  • Why students need to take responsibility for their own learning
  • The holistic approach to playing his teachers taught him
  • What a typical daily regimen looks like for him today
  • Handling a lot of repertoire
  • Focus – timeline = create timeline of your own – prioritization
  • The importance of knowing how quickly you can learn and push yourself to learn faster than you think
  • His favorite tools in the practice room
  • How the Feldenkrais Method helped him
  • Why he believes that there’s always room at the top



The Cleveland Orchestra: https://www.clevelandorchestra.com/About/Musicians-and-Conductors/Meet-the-Musicians/A-L-Musicians/Damoulakis-Marc/

The Cleveland Institute: https://www.cim.edu/faculty/marc-damoulakis

Marc Damoulakis joined The Cleveland Orchestra in August 2006 and was appointed to the principal percussion chair in 2013.  He currently also teaches as a faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music.  He also presents clinics, masterclasses, and workshops at institutions and festivals worldwide, and performs as a soloist in a wide variety of performance settings.

Throughout his career, he has performed and recorded as a guest artist, including engagements with the New York Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Sarasota Orchestra, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic.  He performed and recorded with the National Brass Ensemble at Skywalker Ranch and Orchestra Hall in Chicago in 2015.  An active chamber musician, Mr. Damoulakis plays regularly with the Strings Music Festival, ChamberFest Cleveland, and the Sun Valley Summer Symphony “In Focus” Series, where he is also the principal percussionist.  He has performed with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Gilmore Festival, New Music Consort, and the Pulse Percussion Ensemble.  In addition, Mr. Damoulakis is a founding member of the Time Table Percussion Quartet.

As a teacher, Marc Damoulakis has students holding positions in major symphony orchestras throughout the world and has led masterclasses and clinics throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.  He is committed to a biannual week-long teaching residency at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is a regular participant in the North Western Percussion Symposium, and the National Youth Orchestra.  In addition, he serves as a judge of the annual Modern Snare Drum Competition.  In addition to his current work at CIM, he taught for seven years as a faculty member at DePaul University.  As a collaborative three-year project, he developed the K symphonic line of cymbals with the Zildjian Cymbal Company, instruments that are an important part of his sound collection with The Cleveland orchestra.

Prior to coming to Cleveland, Mr. Damoulakis lived and worked in New York, where he performed and recorded with the New York Philharmonic (2003-2006), served as principal timpani of the Long Island Philharmonic (1998-2006), and held the position of assistant principal percussion of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra (2003-2006).  He also performed as an active freelancer in New York, including playing in the orchestra for Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Mr. Damoulakis was exposed to music at a young age by his parents, who were both educators and musicians, in piano and tuba respectively.  He later spent four summers at Tanglewood, in addition attending the Spoleto Festival and Pacific Music Festival.  Marc Damoulakis holds a bachelor’s degree in percussion performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied under Chris Lamb (New York Philharmonic), Duncan Patton (Metropolitan Opera Orchestra), and James Preiss (Steve Reich ensemble).  He continued his studies for four years with the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas (1999-2003).

Marc and his wife, Samantha, currently reside in Cleveland Heights with their son George, daughter Helen, and their dog Rocky.

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Most sincere thank you to composer Jim Stephenson who graciously provided the show’s musical theme!  Concerto #1 for Trumpet and Chamber Orchestra – Movement 2: Allegro con Brio, performed by Jeffrey Work, trumpet, and the Lake Forest Symphony, conducted by Jim Stephenson.

Also a HUGE thank you to my fantastic producer, Bella Kelly!