Matt Kazmierski and Alex Smith
2014 master artist and apprentice
Plymouth (Wayne County) and Lansing (Ingham County)
Matt Kazmierski was born in Manistee, Michigan, and from an early age was surrounded by and encouraged to play music. His father played trumpet and his mother insisted on Matt taking piano lessons. His father also taught shop at Manistee High School, and made sure to pass that knowledge on to his son. When Matt was in high school, he began building his own mallets, sticks, and drums, and repairing percussion instruments on the side. During college he began playing marimba and after graduation he began making his first marimba, which he modeled after the one he played in college. He reached out to marimba builders Matt Coe, Doug DeMorrow, and Ron Samuels to improve his technique, and they freely shared their skills and trade secrets. Matt has continued this practice of sharing knowledge, and has taught three others the art of marimba making. He will further spread this art form through teaching his apprentice, Alex Smith, a graduate student in musicology/ethnomusicology at Michigan State University. After being introduced to marimba or marimba-like instruments in Brazil and Ghana, Alex was inspired to expand his research interests in the profession of marimba craftsmanship. Through this apprenticeship he also seeks to strengthen his connections with the makers, players, and natural resources of musical instruments.
Alex Smith (left) and Matt Kazmierski (right).
Photo courtesy of Matt Kazmierski