Associate Professor: Percussion
Fernando Meza is Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Music, where he has been Director of Percussion Studies since 1993. Over this time period, he has built and established in Minneapolis what is considered by many to be one of the most comprehensive centers of percussion studies in the United States. Professor Meza began musical studies in his home country of Costa Rica in 1972 as part of the Costa Rica National Symphony’s Youth Orchestra Program (currently the National Center of Music of Costa Rica). In 1981 he became the youngest recipient of the Latin Scholars Program Scholarship sponsored by the Organization of American States to participate in a year of intensive studies at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and later traveled to Texas and Michigan to continue his musical studies. Meza holds a master's degree from the University of Michigan and a bachelor's degree from Baylor University, and has studied with Stuart Marrs, John Soroka, Larry Vanlandingham, and Michael Udow. He was in charge of the percussion department at The Ohio State University in Columbus prior to his arrival in the Twin Cities and has also served on the faculties of the National Center of Music and the University of Costa Rica.
Prof. Meza is recognized for his versatility as a performing artist and teacher, as well as someone who is involved in creatively expanding the art form of music in general, and of percussion in particular. To this end, one of his most important contributions to date was the organization and presentation of the Marimba 2010 International Festival and Conference, a 3 ½ day event which brought together over 50 of the world’s leading marimba artists in collaboration with the most important artistic organizations in the Twin Cities, for an unprecedented event which reached over 10,000 people through performances in the most important venues in the area.
Prof. Meza has performed in Japan, Latin America, and the U.S. with internationally renowned marimba artist Keiko Abe, with whom he recorded for the acclaimed CD Marimba Spiritual - Keiko Abe and the World's Leading Percussionists. He has also performed as soloist, chamber, or orchestral musician in such places as Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Philharmonie in Berlin, and the Musikverein in Vienna among others, and is in demand locally as a performer with the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, Bakken Trio, and others.
In 1989 Meza accepted the position of Principal Percussionist/Assistant Timpanist of the Costa Rica National Symphony Orchestra and spearheaded the creation of the percussion program at the University of Costa Rica, where he worked until 1991. During this time, he traveled extensively throughout Latin America, the U.S. and Europe as a performer and clinician and finished work for his Percussion Discography: An International Compilation of Solo and Chamber Percussion Music published by Greenwood Press.
Meza’s musical interests are wide and include the study of orchestral music, contemporary solo and chamber music for marimba and percussion, North Indian tabla drums, the folkloric marimba traditions of Costa Rica, Latin American contemporary and traditional music, and musical design. On the educational side, he is fundamentally committed to the development of complete musicianship with his students and to this end has created a program of studies which encompasses experiences of both global and local elements within the percussion world aimed at helping the students become intellectually mature and professionally successful in their own right.
Meza was one of the original percussionists for the world-premiere Broadway production of Disney's The Lion King and his work can be heard on the original-cast and Grammy-award winning recording of this production. He is also featured in the world-premiere recording of composer Stephen Paulus' one-act opera The Three Hermits, and his own recording Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by J.S. Bach performed on marimba can be found through cdbaby.com, iTunes, and other digital music providers. His recording output can be heard with a variety of groups on the Denon-Columbia, BIS, Reference, Equilibrium, Sony, Turtle, and D’Note music labels.
An avid chamber musician, Meza is part of the ensembles Grupo Clave, a percussion quintet dedicated to pursuing original music emanating from Latin America and the Caribbean, and the 2-piano/2-percussion group Percussiano. Since 1998, he has also been involved with the Jovan Perkussion Projekt, an international quartet comprised of musicians originating from four different countries (Germany, Serbia, Costa Rica, and the U.S.A), and featuring the music of composer and marimba/percussion virtuoso Nebojsa Zivkovic. With this ensemble he has performed in Novi Sad and Belgrade in Serbia for the NOMUS New Music Festival; in Germany for the prestigious Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival; in Lithuania for the Lithuanian Orchestra Series; and in the U.S. for the Percussive Arts Society International Convention among others. He has recorded Trio per Uno, and Lamento e Danza Barbara for “The Castle of the Mad King“, and “Composer’s Portrait“ two of Zivkovic’s most successful CDs, and an upcoming release in 2012 will feature Meza along with Zivkovic in the latter’s composition Die Arten des Wassers for two pianos and two percussionists.
Throughout his career, Meza has collaborated with some of the most important composers of our time including among many, John Cage, Minoru Miki, Tan Dun, Elliot Carter, Jacob Druckman, Judith Zaimont, Dominick Argento, Libby Larsen, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Stephen Paulus. He has also worked with such conductors as Charles Dutoit, Osmo Ví¤nska, Leonard Slatkin, Edo de Waart, Roberto Abbado, Maxim Shostakovich, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Rafael Burgos, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, and Yakov Kreizberg among others.
Since 2003 Meza has served as the percussion faculty/coach for the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, the prime ensemble of top young musicians from throughout the American continent, and continues to be committed to the educational process of young percussion students through clinics and master classes throughout the country and abroad. He is a consulting artist for OBiolley Instrumentos Musicales in Costa Rica, is in demand as an adjudicator nationally and serves as an educational and/or performing artist for Zildjian, Grover ProPercussion, and August Percussion with whom he recently developed a new line of graduated marimba mallets bearing his signature.