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University of Missouri

Percussion Repercussions

Julia Gaines enthusiastically leads the School of Music.

Julia Gaines Mizzou

Julia Gaines, School of Music director and former director of percussion studies, wrote a book on playing the marimba. Photo by Rob Hill.

Having grown up in remote Moscow, Idaho, in a church where her father was pastor, Julia Gaines was steeped in music. But her dad was a clarinetist, and her mom “couldn’t sing her way out of a paper bag,” Gaines says. How did MU’s former director of percussion studies and new director of the School of Music find the rhythm section?

I hit things well,” jokes Gaines, who wrote a book in 2010 on how to play the xylophone-like marimba. “You could pick an instrument in seventh grade at my junior high, and I picked drums. I can count the number of female college percussion teachers on one hand.”

Gaines moved to the Midwest to get a bachelor’s degree at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisconsin, and a doctorate at the University of Oklahoma. After obtaining a performer’s certificate at the prestigious Eastman School of Music, she performed in city orchestras in Oklahoma City and Green Bay, Wisconsin, and as a soloist in Brazil, China, England and Russia.

When Gaines arrived at Mizzou in 1996 at age 27, she was by far the youngest faculty member in the music school. She became director with the help of a recommendation by her predecessor, Robert Shay, who left MU in July 2014 to direct the University of Colorado Boulder’s music school.

It is so cool to see young musicians reach their potential,” says Gaines, who aims to oversee the construction of a new fine arts building during her administration. “As a music professor, I’ll often see students every week of every semester of their collegiate career. I become a second mother to these kids.”