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Junior known for percussive skills

Marimba talent surpasses that of the average high schooler


Music often serves as a way for someone to express themself in their own unique and organic way. The most talented musicians are distinct individuals and set themselves apart from others, while also being able to leave their audience in awe by the end of their performance.

Junior Jude Hodgson began playing percussion in sixth grade. Since freshman year he has focused specifically on playing the marimba, a percussion instrument consisting of a set of wooden bars that are struck with rubber mallets to produce musical tones. Not many students choose to focus on marimba like Hodgson does, and even fewer are as talented as he is.

Hodgson’s technique and approach to the instrument has been described as effortless and captivating, displaying expertise beyond the average high school student.

“We will be working on a piece for half of class trying to get it right, then Jude will come over and play the entire thing perfectly on the first try,” sophomore percussionist David Nicolella said.

What prompted him to begin this journey to mastery? It was the only instrument option available.

“Where I went to middle school pretty much everyone did either band or choir so it was around the time when people were choosing what they wanted to play, and I was late to the sign up,” Hodgson said. “So pretty much everything else was full except for percussion, so I just decided I had to pick it then.”

Luckily Hodgson made the right last minute choice. He currently plays in the wind ensemble and the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Since Hodgson plays solo marimba in addition to being a part of the percussion ensemble, he has to spend a lot of time practicing. While Hodgson enjoys playing the instrument and has become very skilled at it, he is only able to use the instruments at school since he does not own one himself.

“It requires a lot of time to practice, especially because the instruments like marimba are only at school so I have to stay after school to practice on those specifically,” he explained. “The hardest part is finding time to practice and staying motivated during that time.”

He has been working privately with Dr. Memmi Ochi, his current private marimba teacher, since his freshman year when he began focusing on his solo instrument.

“I usually don’t have that much time to practice, because my teacher comes back and forth from Seattle to Japan,” Hodgson said. “So when she does come to Seattle I really have to be prepared since I don’t see her that often.”

Since his teacher lives part time in Japan, he has to commit even more time to practicing in order to stay focused. While this might make learning and practicing more difficult for him than other band students, it is all worth it.

“I learn mostly from the teacher, which helps a lot,” he said. “I think most of the kids in the band program, or the percussion program it least, don’t really have a lot of discipline in our teaching which makes us overall less willing to learn stuff. I think having a private teacher is really useful to stay disciplined. In percussion there are so many instruments to choose from, and just being able to focus on the marimba–it’s really helpful to have a teacher for that.”

The private lessons have not only improved Hodgson’s musical talent, they have also shaped other skills.

“It’s made me a lot more responsible for my own learning, because so much isn’t offered through the school program for percussion that I have had to seek out a lot on my own in order to make the advancements that I want to make,” Hodgson says.

Sadly, percussion is not an art that is particularly praised with awards or acknowledgments because it is usually incorporated into large ensembles. Since rewards aren’t common, Hodgson motivates himself by focusing on personal improvement rather than receiving acclamation. “There’s a lot of artists I look up to, and just seeing what they can do on the instruments that I can’t do,” Hodgson said. He also explains how he was particularly inspired by Dr. Memme Ochi when he made the decision to focus on marimba. “When I first saw her play it, she was just so expressive and it was just so inspiring to watch her.”

People like Dr. Memme Ochi fuel Hodgson’s desire to keep improving, making him the talented musician that he is today.

“It just inspires me to keep pursuing to see how much I can get out of the instruments. I think that when people think of percussion they just think of people hitting things with sticks and making loud noises, but there is so much artistry and depth behind the instruments.”

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Junior known for percussive skills