A local resident has been tapped for the coveted position of principal percussionist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Matthew Howard will replace Raynor Carroll, who is retiring after 32 years with the orchestra.
Born and raised in Brookside, Howard attended Hamilton High Music Academy. He went on to earn his undergraduate degree at USC Thornton School of Music, and his graduate degree in percussion performance from the New England Conservatory. Most recently, Howard was a percussionist with the New World Symphony of Miami.
Speaking to the Chronicle, Howard says he is buzzing with excitement at the thought of being a part of the Philharmonic’s 98th season, come opening night this Sept. 27: “I still can’t believe it,” he adds.
The audition process, according to Howard, was both intense and rigorous. The first step was to submit a resume of work, which ironically he did not pass — he was waitlisted. But by the next step, he was already included in a group of 40 other musicians invited for three-days of “blind” (performing behind a curtain) auditions.
“Only seven people advanced to the next round,” says Howard. A semi-final round — still blind — was next, which narrowed the field to five people; a further blind elimination round brought the number down to three.
“Once it was down to the top three musicians they removed the curtain for a ‘super final round’ where we took turns playing with the percussion section,” recalls Howard.
He was then taken to a room to wait.
After some time, Howard says a person walked in and asked him to report to the stage to speak with the orchestra’s conductor, Gustavo Dudamel.
“As soon as I walked on stage everyone started clapping,” he says, adding, “Gustavo walked up, shook my hand, and said: ‘Welcome to the family.’”
The thought of working regularly with Dudamel is “pretty phenomenal,” says Howard.
“The best part is the way the orchestra responds to him. He is inviting and helpful, which leads to a friendly and collaborative working environment.
“And as a principal, I will get to work with him quite a lot face-to-face,” says Howard with excitement in his voice.
According to Howard, he expects his schedule to fluctuate from week to week once the season starts. And as a principal, Howard says his responsibilities will not only be to learn his music, but also to manage logistics, instruments and practices for the percussion section.
With a few months until his first day on the job, what’s on his agenda? “Celebrating and relaxing,” he says with a laugh.