Photo by Galen Gibson-Cornell
“But what does it sound like? Heaven.”
– The New York Times review of There Might Be Others
David Degge exemplifies the modern innovative percussionist. His artistry combines virtuosity on percussion instruments, a collaborative spirit in ensemble music, dedication to mentorship, and the determination to carve out a new repertoire for the hammered dulcimer. His recent performance with Sō Percussion of Steve Reich’s Drumming at Lincoln Center was hailed by the New York Times for its “clarity and vivacity…a pure, uncluttered pleasure.”
David was a founding member of the quartet Mobius Percussion, a group that specializes in blending voice and percussion. Mobius’ body of work creates heightened theatrical experiences through both live performance and video documentation. The original members of the group met through the Sō Percussion Summer Institute and first honed their style of performance by commissioning Jason Treuting’s paper melodies (my music box music). Other works followed by composers such as Wally Gunn, Andrea Mazzariello, Quinn Collins, and Dan Trueman. Trueman’s Bessie-award winning score to Rebecca Lazier’s dance work There Might Be Others featured Mobius as core collaborators.
During his time with Mobius, David began introducing his hammered dulcimer into new projects. Composers voraciously embraced this new resource, which gradually lead to the commissioning of solo pieces. The first of these, a work by Quinn Collins entitled “The Mayonnaise Chapter”, was originally composed as the final movement of Collins’s Precious and Intelligent Metal, written for Mobius and premiered in April 2016. The second, Andrea Mazzariello’s ambitious yet intimate Home Body, also includes kick drum, hi-hat, and voice, and was premiered in September 2016. In the summer of 2017, Home Body was released alongside Mazzariello’s vocal percussion quartet Symmetry and Sharing on One More Revolution Records. Other recent projects include another block and more lines by Jason Treuting, premiered in the fall of 2017, and Cricket Tala by Aurél Holló of the widely acclaimed Amadinda Percussion Group, a new solo for percussion premiered in April 2018.
After finishing his Masters in percussion performance with Robert van Sice at the Peabody Conservatory, David won a Fulbright fellowship to study with Zoltán Rácz of the Amadinda Percussion Group at the Liszt Academy in Budapest – the only American student to ever do so. During his Fulbright year, David followed Amadinda closely, studying the inner workings of the legendary ensemble during their 30th anniversary season. Performance highlights during that year include Music For 18 Musicians at the Liszt Academy, solo performance at the annual Fulbright Conference in Berlin, Germany, UMZE Chamber Ensemble at the Budapest Music Center, and Morton Feldman’s Why Patterns? with András Wilheim and Anna Rákóczy at the Budapest Center for Architecture. Part of David’s Fulbright project was to learn about new Hungarian pieces and bring them to the United States; his video of Balázs Juhász’s 25-minute marimba solo Wind-Rose-Wood-Cuts on Vic Firth’s website introduced a previously unknown major work to a broader audience.
Upon returning to the United States, David accepted a Percussion Fellowship with Sō Percussion’s program at the Bard College Conservatory of Music. In this role, he served as an ongoing resource for undergraduate percussion students as a mentor, chamber ensemble coach, supplementary lesson instructor, and studio manager. In 2015, David joined the Bard Preparatory Division as its first percussion faculty member, teaching private lessons and offering group rhythm classes.
David currently lives in New York City where he works as a freelance musician and teaches percussion in various capacities, including a roster of private students from the city and the Hudson Valley, as well as Teaching Artist positions through the American Composer’s Orchestra and the Midori Foundation. He is a proud endorser of Vic Firth sticks and mallets.