Percussion alumni profile: Ross Karre

Ross Karre (IAA 00-01, IAC 98, 00) is percussionist and director of production for the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) based in New York City. His primary focus is on combining media, including classical percussion performance, electronics, theatre, moving images, visual arts and lighting design.  

Q: Tell us about your first experience with Interlochen. What did you first think when you arrived on campus?

A: I grew up in Michigan and spent a majority of my summers in Bear Lake, which is southwest of Interlochen by about 30 miles. I was familiar with the Manistee-to-Traverse City area of northwest Michigan and always admired the Interlochen campus as I drove by. When I was old enough to understand what it was, I dreamed of attending as a student. My commitment to music through my school’s band program allowed me to audition and attend as a camper in 1998, where I studied with Keith Aleo and the other faculty. Back then the camp was eight weeks long and we still had challenges. The first thing I remember was Keith Aleo's demonstration about covering a music stand with a black towel to make a stick tray. I will never forget that--or my towel!

Q: How did your experience at Interlochen help you prepare for the current position you are in and/or your admission to college?

A: Interlochen started a sequence of heightened awareness about music-making. I was introduced to the idea of playing with an orchestra at a high level by subbing with HSCO on the Glazinov Violin Concerto. When I returned to Battle Creek, I sought out other orchestral opportunities in Ann Arbor—the Michigan Youth Orchestra—as well as outlets for my composing and arranging ideas. When I returned to Interlochen Arts Camp in 2000, I learned about the Academy auditions and decided to throw my hat in the ring. I attended the Academy from 2000-01 for my senior year of high school. This experience opened my eyes to the type of music-making that would ultimately become my career as a percussionist with the International Contemporary Ensemble. Dr. Amy Lynn Barber, who led the Academy percussion program during John Alfieri’s sabbatical year, introduced us to the essential repertoire from American experimental and European avant garde composers while also bringing us new works to premiere. This concept of new music was so exciting to me: I continued to seek new works and commission new pieces from my composer colleagues throughout my college years and beyond. At Oberlin and UCSD, I went through a degree sequence of bachelors, masters and doctorate while also building an interest in video art. By the end of my DMA with Steven Schick as my adviser, I had developed a large enough body of work with projection design to be admitted to an MFA program for visual art focusing on film and video. Two years later, I was invited to work with ICE in both capacities. I have been busy playing over 60 concerts per year and creating videos for five years with ICE. It has been an unbelievable dream job and I owe it all to the opportunities that were offered to me by the generous faculty at the Interlochen Arts Center.

Q: What advice would you give to High School students on how they might better prepare for a career in Music?

A: As percussionists, we're lucky to have some of the most creative and artistic jobs on the stage. My goal is to be as creative as possible in every decision; whether practical or musical. This philosophy has served me well and has prevented me from being mired in the challenges of making a career. When an artist is creative, resourceful and hard-working, people notice. Whether it's an undergraduate school program, a grad audition or the professional music world, creative music-making and problem solving—coupled with an open and positive attitude—are valued above all else. No matter the context, no matter the gig, be a creative artist and you'll never be out of a job.