UND Music student competed in world-wide marimba competition semifinals

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College of Arts & Sciences


University of North Dakota music student Paul Millette performed outstanding against the top marimbists in his category at the Great Plains Marimba Competition held recently in Oklahoma.

After playing an assigned piece for a panel of judges and vying against 12 others in the undergraduate category, which took place June 17-20 at Oklahoma City University, the top three moved on for final placement.

Millette said, despite not making the final list, he had a great experience at the competition and was able to make some great connections with other skillful marimbists.

Millette was one of only 13 undergraduate students to reach the semifinals for the Great Plains International Marimba Competition (GPIMC). Semi-finalists, such as Millette, received a certificate, a CD recording of their performance and valuable feedback from the judges.

The judges for Millette’s performance were Kevin Bobo, a professor at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music; Ji Hye Jung, a Korean-born marimbist and associate professor at the University of Kansas; and David Steffens, principal percussionist for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.

“As percussionists, the marimba provides for creative solo expression,” said Millette, a native of Grand Forks, who practices up to five hours each day on the instrument. “The marimba is the best voice we have, as a soloist, to perform on our own.”

The marimba is a percussion instrument, similar in appearance to a xylophone, with wooden bars and metal resonators to produce a myriad of tones. Performers use two or four mallet grips, the latter allowing them to play harmonized chords.

“Playing the marimba has taught me a number of things,” said Millette who has been playing since the beginning of high school. “It has taught me discipline, the value and rewards of hard work, time management, how to effectively communicate musically to an audience and many more.”

Millette’s advisor at UND is Professor Mike Blake. Blake has had many talented students, but Paul ranks as one the most successful.

“Paul is an amazing musician to work with; he absorbs everything I say and then adds his own musical interpretation, which is the pinnacle of where I would like all my Performance Majors to be,” said Blake. “Paul is unique, in the fact that he plays all of the percussion instruments at an elite level.”

Paul has already started preparing a composition for next year’s competition. “Paul has a very bright future,” Blake affirmed.