Lisa Pegher ~ Interview/Preview of her New York Debut at The Cell

Percussionist-composer Lisa Pegher will be making her first-ever New York appearance at a venue called The Cell on Thursday, June 28th at 8 PM. In this concert, she will be performing works by composers such as Paul Lansky, Tobias Broström, a world premiere by Joe Sheehan, and even a collaboration with visual artist Ben Hill on a piece she co-composed with Andrew Knox.

Lisa had some time to talk to us about this concert.

CM: Can you talk about your start as a percussionist and what drew you to those instruments?

LP: My first experience with drumming began in fourth grade like many other young American players. I was “tested” to see which instrument I should play in grade school band. The teacher handed me a pair of sticks and it was as if I already knew what to do. There was something about those sticks that felt right and came easily. Having come from humble beginnings and a somewhat unstable early home environment, music became a close friend at a very young age. When everything seemed to be falling apart, the sticks were always there for me to hold on to. And growing up, music was a great emotional outlet and also a provided a place where I could find solitude.

CM: You are also a composer. Can you talk about that piece (no reply) and the new amplified pieces?

LP: I think all musicians are part composer. For me, the more I perform the more I want to create. That is why recently I’ve begun exploring other sound worlds and writing down my own ideas. I used to think that performers and composers had to be two different professions. As I started working with more and more people who are considered “composers” I started to realize that we all come from the same place and that some spend more time writing and some spend more time playing. At the end of the day, it’s about sharing whatever inspires us.

The piece “No Reply” was written at a time in my life when I literally felt that I had lost everything…The composition was willed out of me. Honestly, it came from a place of despair and in a way.. awakening and enlightenment. It was written at a true turning point in my life that not a lot of people get to experience. To summarize my traumatic experience, I had lost so much blood in my body that I was unknowingly living in a state of shock. When your body overcompensates, you start to think feeling horrible is normal. At the same time, everything around me was falling apart and I couldn’t hold it together. Things started to get better when the doctors figured out what was wrong. But during that time, when I felt I had lost everything, the only thing that would keep me going was music and getting myself to the next performance. So, in a way, the piece No Reply was created as somewhat of a vehicle to help keep me alive during a very difficult time.
There were a lot of tears shed over the marimba during the creation of that piece.

Lisa Pegher: No Reply

I began writing my newest compositions recently as I became interested in performing more solo shows in addition to my larger concerto performances. The life of a soloist is somewhat lonely. Adding realtime digital effects and looping to live performance has opened up a whole new world in my creative output. Combining this technology with my strong background in jazz, I feel like I gain more ownership in the final product by including my own improvisations. The more recent compositions will be recorded this summer on my new solo album.

CM: Joe Sheehan‘s Marimba Loops is being give a world premiere–can you talk about what we can expect from this piece?

LP: Well, you know it’s a world premiere because the title is now “Vibraphone Loops”!
After working with Joe and playing the piece for him, we decided that sounded better for Vibraphone. In a nutshell, this work is Steve Reich meets Robert Glasper. It’s a 9 and a half minute work for vibraphone and pre-recorded tape. It fuses jazz, popular and classical worlds together. You’ll have to come to the show to hear the rest!

CM: You’re also working with animation on the work “Minimal Art”–Is this kind of collaboration a new dynamic for you?

LP: Again, this collaboration came from my love of improvisation. Drumming is improvisational in nature. I have spent so much of my life learning extremely difficult art music that most non-musicians say after hearing, “You could have been making it up and I wouldn’t have known the difference…” I think this is something that I have struggled with over the years in trying to get respect for percussion as a solo instrument. Because it is improvisational in nature, audiences have a harder time catching on to a melody. I think if I want to take this to larger audiences, I need to find the best of both worlds.
This project was a way for me to combine all the elements that I love. Visual art, composition and improvisation. It feels good to perform this show because it’s always fresh and I can always build new ideas into it. This is an avenue that I will continue grow with and expand upon in coming years.

Lisa Pegher: Solo Percussion Recital Excerpts

CM: Are you excited about playing in NYC for the first time?

LP: Yes! It’s been a long journey to NYC. I think I built my career the opposite way of most people. Often it seems that people make performing in NYC one of their first goals and hope that things take off from there. In my case, I feel as if I’ve performed everywhere but in the heart of NYC. For me, I always viewed it as the top of the ladder, having to climb there step by step, in some instances with some very heavy loads. But now that I’ve finally arrived here, I hope to stay around for a while.

Lisa Pegher
Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 8 pm
The Cell
338 W. 23rd Street (between 8th & 9th) in Manhattan
Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door

Solo Percussionist Lisa Pegher (


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