Renowned percussionist coming to ISU

Jessica Sheldahl

What: Guest Artist Recital, Bill Molenhof, renowned percussionist

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Martha-Ellen Tye Recital Hall

Cost: Free

When the cloth-covered mallet strikes a key on the vibraphone, sound resonates through the room with what jazz vibraphonist Bill Molenhof describes as a “human voice quality.”

“Like every little guy, I wanted to play a drum,” Molenhof says. “I simply had to play and write music, no matter how difficult that path was. Sometimes it is glorious and sublime, other times it is awful. Any artist will tell you the same.”

Molenhof says he has been involved with music for 46 years and has been playing mallet instruments for 41 years.

He is a renowned percussionist based in Germany and is coming to Iowa State to give a rare performance.

“We don’t get a lot of jazz performances at Iowa State,” says Barry Larkin, associate professor of music and director of percussion activities. “It’s a chance for the audience to experience international jazz and get exposure to the jazz art form.”

It is not very often that Molenhof comes to Ames.

“This job at Iowa State will be the third time in my career that I have worked there in Ames,” Molenhof says. “I love to go to Iowa because the audience is always nice and the musicians are terrific.”

Molenhof’s major contributions to the world of percussion are his compositions on the vibraphone, an instrument similar to the xylophone, which he has made available to non-jazz players, Larkin says.

The performance will include all original pieces, and Molenhof will be accompanied by Michael Giles, lecturer of saxophone and jazz studies, on jazz piano, Larkin on drums and a local professional on bass.

“My hope is that the audience will hear and feel something which moves them emotionally, intellectually and spiritually,” Molenhof says. “The whole idea is to communicate with as many people as possible.”

In addition to his concert, Molenhof will also be giving private lessons and a clinic for the jazz band focusing on improvisation.

Tom Rutkowski, sophomore in music, is one of the students who will be taking a private lesson with Molenhof during his visit.

“I would like to have him as a reference and to be able to say I’ve studied with him,” Rutkowski says. “A lot of what you do in music is not what you do but rather who you know. He is the man to know for vibes.”

Aside from his compositions, Molenhof has recorded three albums and has also been busy inventing.

“I have invented an instrument called the mallet harp,” Molenhof says. “It is somewhat like a horizontal harp, which can be played with mallets and or fingers. The development of this instrument has taken seven years and is being constructed by two of the finest technicians in Germany.”

Molenhof is also involved in the design of new mallets.

“They will be brought to the music industry by a major company and will hopefully give all percussionists a greater range of expression, color and dynamics,” Molenhof says. “I want to try and help sentient beings as much as I can while I am here.”