Brett Berardi began his percussive career at Western Connecticut State University in 2006. While there he studied classical percussion under Dave Smith and Patrick Smith covering all the primary percussion instruments: snare drum, orchestral mallets, timpani, and accessories. Around his Sophomore year at WCSU he started to gravitate towards the marimba after attending his first PASIC in 2007.
He started to focus on mallet playing in his spring semester of 2007 and by the next year was playing works by Ford and Zivkovic, Polaris and Ilijas respectively. It is also around this time that he purchased his own Yamaha 5 octave marimba.
The following years brought he contributed an immense amount mallet playing to the WCSU percussion studio. In 2008 he performed the David Long Marimba Concerto with the WCSU Wind Ensemble and two successful recitals in 2009 and 2010. During this time he would go on to play many mallet works; of note being Dances of Earth and Fire, Marimba Spiritual, Ultimatum II, Velocities, and Merlin.
The following years after he graduated he took over Southington High School’s Front Ensemble, educating students on marching mallet and percussive playing. He still teaches there full time and has enjoyed several of his private students continuing on into professional percussion, mostly all of them attending WCSU in the years to come.
Currently Mr. Berardi is the band director at Derynoski Elementary School in Southington and the Director of Jazz at Southington High School in addition to teaching the front ensemble. He currently plays regularly with Capital Winds out of West Hartford and is planing to play the Séjourné Marimba Concerto with them in the upcoming years. His private studio is small and limited, but is still active with one-two students a year mostly consisting of High School upperclassmen.
Check out the below video of Brett!
Check out the below interview with Brett!
How did you first get started playing drums? Was there a specific moment where you realized this was the instrument for you?
I was 6 or 7 years old and would watch my dad’s band practice in our basement every rehearsal they had. I think that is what triggered me to play drums in school. Started right away in 4th grade!
Even though you studied all the classical instruments during you tenure at WCSU, your main area of expertise is marimba. What specific moment helped you realize this would be your specialty during college?
It was a combination of two things really. In high school I started to write music and play the piano, so I began getting proficient and hand to hand coordination. I think that really helped me when I could hold 4 mallets without dropping them haha! The second and definitely the bigger influence was my first PASIC. I was a Sophomore and saw Keiko Abe play Prism II along with Mark Ford and a wind ensemble. From that point on I knew that I wanted to focus on marimba after seeing how much emotion and variance someone can get out of the instrument.
You played more recitals during college then most percussionists, all involving very demanding marimba repertoire. Can you give our readers some insight on how you prepared so many large musical works every semester?
I wont lie, It definitely helped that I own my own marimba. I was able to spend my summers learning music like Marimba Spiritual and Ultimatum II, and come back the next semester ready to learn other rep. I also would practice these pieces slowly and correctly, making sure I wouldn't have to go back and fix an incorrectly learned part. With that said I was working 2-3 hours at a time to master these works, so I would have to credit my practice discipline as well. I think another big part of my choice of rep is the challenge they inspired. I wanted to challenge myself. If you’re going to spend hours practicing something, make sure you really want to play it and you’re going to get something out of it musically, technically, or emotionally. It makes the hours fly by.
Marching band has been a huge part of your life, both growing up and in your professional career. Right now you have been the front ensemble director of Southington High School for 6 years! What advice would you give younger students aiming to pursue mallets to help them succeed in drum corps setting?
Practice! You don't need a marimba to practice mallet technique, all you need are the mallets and a floor! Take a few private lessons to make sure you’re holding the mallets correctly (2 or 4 mallets). Work on simple concepts like double verticals and single stroke independence per mallet. One of the best things you can do is go and watch or observe a core rehearsing. Most will let you with permission! This will open you up to what is expected and give you insight on what you need to work on personally. I tell my students the to do the same.
Is there anything else you would like to say to our audience?
Don’t stop playing! It always makes me upset when I hear a former student or adult that used to play an instrument say they stopped. Keep it alive! I’d like to thank PAS for the recognition!