Andy Thierauf

Performing, composing, teaching, collaborating with dancers—they’re all part of Andy Thierauf’s career as a percussionist. How did such an eclectic career in music get started?

“I had a really good teacher in eighth grade, going into high school,” he says. “It came naturally to me, and I really enjoyed practicing.” Playing percussion—and studying music in general—“just made sense, and it went from there.”

Later on, Thierauf was exposed to computer-based music-making during his graduate studies. He was composing his own music, and he wanted to design backing tracks and live electronic processing to enhance the sounds he was making on percussion instruments. “Percussion and electronics just go together,” he says, citing interest in composing in those media, both separately and combined, composers in the late 20th and 21st centuries.

Gradually, he learned Garage Band, Logic, and a live-processing program called MAX-MSP. “A lot of it has been self-teaching and exploring things, which has been a lot of fun,” he says.

While he is an active performer and frequently uses electronics in his performances, Thierauf also teaches in both areas. In teaching a class in music technology, known as Musiclab@Settlement, he’s mainly teaching the basics—inputs, outputs, microphone placement—and getting his students comfortable with using the popular music software program GarageBand.

“It has very basic things, like pre-programmed loops, EQ, reverb, compression… you can do quite a lot with that, if you want to make a backing track,” he says. Logic, on the other hand, “has more bells and whistles. You can do anything with it, basically.”

Thierauf’s Musiclab students are coming to the class with different interests and skills: one plays piano, writes original songs, and wants to record her works, while another has experience as a DJ and wants to gain experience in music production. “I want to fill in any gaps in their knowledge, and then explore the programs,” he says. “I want to give them the skills to realize their ideas.”

Next month, Thierauf will bring Musiclab@Settlement to students at the Camden branch, starting with a free trial class on December 7. (RSVP required -- more details are available here.) That evening, prospective students won’t be poring over equipment and learning the ins and outs of cables and mics. He’ll have everything set up and GarageBand up and running from the start. “I want them to get to make music right away,” he says.

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Andy Thierauf
Percussion and music technology faculty at the Germantown, Wynnefield and Camden Branches
Faculty member since 2016