Pipeline: Matt Altmire

In this third edition of Pipeline, Matt Altmire, percussion caption supervisor and arranger, gives us his insight into the 2010 season.

Pipeline #3


April 19, 2010
With Matt Altmire
Percussion Caption Supervisor and Drumline Arranger

Matt Altmire received his BA and MM from the University of California at Los Angeles, where he studied with Mitchell Peters.  As an instructor, he has worked with the Velvet Knights, Pacific Crest, Colts, and Yamato Drum & Bugle Corps (Caption- Head/Arranger).  In addition to teaching at William S. Hart H.S. and Diamond Bar H.S., Matt currently teaches percussion at Santa Monica College and Mt. San Antonio College.  This is Matt’s 3rd year with Pacific Crest as percussion caption supervisor and drumline arranger.

What do you have in store for the percussion arrangements this year?

There are many things that inspire particular arrangements, including the style of music, show concept, and strengths of the group for whom one is writing, etc. With the Maze show, there are times that the music sounds triumphant, and times when it sounds lost and confused. The percussion book will complement the brass book, while also reflecting these different moods and ideas.

Not only are you an arranger, but you also instruct the percussion members. How’s working with the percussion members this season?

It is great! Instructing and arranging often go hand in hand. I feel that most of the artistry in this activity happens at the performance level, and it is nice to be ‘in the trenches’ with the members. Our members are receptive to everything we’re teaching,and they’re motivated. Since we teach many non-conventional exercises in our technique program, it really helps that they are willing to give their best effort to everything we give them. It is truly an honor to be working with them.

You’ve had experience working with other corps in the past. How did you eventually come to Pacific Crest?

I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with any drum corps on any level. Two corps I particularly liked working with were Yamato, a cultural experience and schedule that went beyond traditional drum corps, and Colts, who have great traditions and values. After taking a year off from drum corps in 2007, Stuart Pompel approached me about working with Pacific Crest. Since I was teaching college locally, the location was good, and the PC schedule was accommodating. I was also drawn to the corps’ values, the aspirations and chemistry of the staff, and its traditions that were already established that drew me to the opportunity. I am very appreciative to be working with PC and look forward to this season.

How has the process of writing percussion parts turned out? How different or similar is it to years prior?

Sometimes it is similar, sometimes it is different. One thing that can separate the process from one show to another is the show concept. With the Maze show, we have had a lot of variety thus far in the actual process of the design. For example, on a basic level, sometimes we have musical ideas that have started from a visual idea, and sometimes visual ideas that have been driven by musical ideas. There has been much collaboration across captions, and even outside consulting.

How do you collaborate with the other music designers to create a cohesive musical composition?

Well, we collaborate about every way you can think of. There is often an outline for every measure of the brass arrangement with everyone’s ideas of what is going on in the show concept at the time. We will look at different percussion concepts for each section, and then closely coordinate our efforts during the arranging process. Sometimes I can simply arrange parts for a particular section. Other times, after working with a section for awhile, a new conceptual idea for approaching that section will emerge. Still other times, once it gets on the field, it may not turn out how we expected, so we have to start over. We will meet at all stages of the arranging process to look at and listen to how the percussion and brass are working together, and how the music complements the overall show concept. Our end goal is a cohesive musical composition.

Does the Maze theme come across in your arrangements? If so, how?

Well, it’s still a work in progress, but like I said before, there are many moods in a ‘maze’ show. One is confusion. I might use rhythmic modulations, counterpoint, or other devices to get this type of effect. Other times, when the mood is triumphant, I may use big unisons or very open rhythms for support. We also have some ‘trapped’ moments in the show, one of which has a battery soloist scored with a brass soloist, both of whom are trapped together. I guess we’ll see where the rest of the show takes us.