Chicago Philharmonic Percussionist Michael Folker

Michael FolkerQ. What inspired you to pursue music as a career?

A. I grew up in a home where my mother was the local piano teacher.  Music was important early on.  I started on piano and continue to enjoy playing to this day.  However, when I was 10 years of age, I took part in a music festival in our hometown.   There was a percussion section that was featured at the start. I immediately fell in love with the sounds, power, and rhythms. From that point on I began my study of percussion. While in college I had the opportunity to study with the timpanist of the Indianapolis Symphony. He was very encouraging about my pursuing a career in music. I was timpanist of the college’s symphony orchestra at the time and knew then that making music was where I would find my greatest passion in life. A career in music is not easy but it returns great dividends that are difficult to define in words.  Suffice it to say that it is very gratifying.

Q. What do you like about the Chicago Philharmonic’s ensemble approach in creating music?
A. The Chicago Philharmonic has a longstanding reputation of incorporating some of the finest musicians in Chicago. When this group performs it is always immediately obvious that the quality of the musical product is outstanding. The flexibility and adaptability of this orchestra allows it to perform in a variety of settings ranging from ballet to stage to corporate seminars. The diversity of work that this group is able to engage always creates for a fresh and exciting endeavor.

Q. What new endeavors would you like to see the Chicago Philharmonic pursue in the future?
A. I see a wonderful opportunity to reach new areas and audiences even in the Chicago region.  Branching into untapped suburban regions offers new and exciting performance venues and audiences.  We have an inventive board.  Fresh ideas are encouraged and given serious consideration.  I believe we will see many new opportunities arising from this organization.

Q. What are you reading at the moment?
A. I love to read.  One of my areas of interest pertains to the 1960’s when our nation took on the challenge to land a man on the Moon.  I have had the privilege of corresponding with two of the astronauts who walked on the moon.  That being said, my orchestra colleagues regularly see me with a book pertaining to the “space race” of the 1960’s. Currently I am dividing my time between two books on that subject:  Failure Is Not An Option by Gene Kranz (Flight director for the Apollo moon landings).  Starman by James Doran & Piers Bizony.  The story of Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

Q. What favorite music are you listening to?
A. My musical tastes are surprisingly diverse. Being a college instructor, I am frequently introduced to new music of all varieties by my students. Currently, I have been listening to Irish music. I studied the Irish Bodhran (traditional Irish drum) several years ago and love playing Irish music. Because of upcoming performance engagements, I will be listening to Beethoven’s 1st Symphony and opera music by Philip Glass. There’s diversity.

Q. What do you like to do as a hobby?
A. I often feel that I have too many hobbies and not enough time. At the top of my list would be spending time reading and working on magical illusions.  Yes, magic. The history of the great magicians and their illusions is fascinating. Having created a full magic and orchestra program titled “The Magic of Music”, I love to watch the audience’s reaction to the impossible happening. It is my personal goal to give the audience an opportunity to escape the realities of this world and simply sit back and smile, laugh, and be awed.  We do some of that as musicians as well. What a wonderful gift.  I recently performed my “Magic of Music” show this past October and had a wonderful time working with the orchestra that hosted it.   The musicians have as much fun creating the magic as I do. Another hobby of mine is Vintage British cars. I look forward to any time that I am able to devote to working on and driving my own two classics, a 1958 MGA roadster and my 1965 Bentley S III that I affectionately refer to as “Duchess”.

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