Rochester New York, binge-watching The Office with his cat, and the cello: this week’s Meet the Musician features our principal timpanist, Mike Kemp!
WSO: How long have you played with the WSO?
Mike Kemp: This is my 5th season with the WSO.
Where are you from?
I hail from Rochester, New York. It is about a 2 hour and 45 minute drive from Toronto. I felt pretty at home right away in Winnipeg because I grew up with winters full of snow and Tim Hortons all over the place.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work? A significant amount of my non-WSO time is spent hanging out with my wife Anna and our beautiful princess of a cat, Zoe. We have logged a lot of hours on our couch watching The Office on Netflix from start to finish, which we do about twice a year.
I am also a big hockey guy. I grew up playing AAA hockey in western New York and still try to get out on the ice as much as possible. I actually play on a beer league team named the Slack Hawks with several other WSO musicians and a member of the WSO staff. On top of playing hockey, I am also die-hard fan of the Buffalo Sabres and the Buffalo Bills. I spend an unhealthy amount of time and emotion following those teams.
Do you play other instruments than timpani?
In the WSO, I will occasionally play in the percussion section for certain shows. This means I may end up playing anything from the cowbell to the xylophone. I have also played the drum set for several of the WSO/Rainbow stage collaborations.
My first instrument was actually the cello. Growing up, I was much more serious about pursuing the cello in university than timpani or percussion. It remains my favourite instrument to listen to!
How did you get into music?
I come from an extremely musical family. My grandmother was a trumpet major and percussion minor at the Eastman School of Music and went on to be a public school music teacher. My mom is the Assistant Principal Cellist with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and has played with them for 43 years. My sister is a Violin teacher in Rochester, NY, and my aunt studied horn at Eastman and Yale. My dad jokes that he only plays the radio but he was the stage manager for the Rochester Philharmonic for many years and also worked in their production/operations office for a while. Naturally, I married a musician as well. My wife Anna plays the bass and regularly performs with the WSO.
Which other orchestras have you played with? I have had the incredible opportunity to perform as a guest Principal Timpanist with the San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Detroit Symphony, and Baltimore Symphony. I have also played both timpani and percussion with the Toronto Symphony and the Buffalo Philharmonic.
What’s your favourite thing about Winnipeg?
THE SUMMERS!! The long days, near perfect golf conditions, and ample patios to bike to and enjoy an adult beverage on are perfection! However, seeing as the summer is always too short and the winter too long, I have many cold weather activities I like doing as well. I love to skate the river trail and play shinny on the local out door rinks. My wife and I also love exploring the local food/brewery scene. Oh, and Thermea is pure bliss.