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Bill Vits - Percussion


Your name:  Bill Vits


Your instrument/position in the orchestra: Principal Percussion


How old were you when you started playing your instrument?  7 in 1964


Hometown:  Lived in Chicago, Nashville, Indianapolis but consider GRR home!


When did you join the orchestra?  1979


Education:  Ball State University and masters at U of MI


What made you choose your instrument?  While taking piano lessons I heard my teacher's son practicing drums.  This was in Nashville TN and he was playing to Booker T and the MGs, James Brown, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett.  By the next year I was playing a shiny Ludwig drumset to 45 rpm records in the basement.


In a few words or sentences, how would you describe yourself?  I like to think of myself as one of the more durable musicians in the orchestra.  In 36 years I have used few sick days and have played concerts with broken bones, stitches and one eye swelled shut.  I have played in conditions from 22 to 98 degrees (outdoors) with my rock band, the Concussions.  People hire me because they can count on me to show up and perform.


Favorite saying or motto: "When perfection is the standard, what do you do for extra credit?"


Pet peeve: People who show up at the last minute and want me to move everything that took an hour to set up!


Most memorable moment in the orchestra: Hammer blows in Mahler 6 really get your heart pumping! 


Inspirations: Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Billy Cobham, Steve Gadd


Favorite Movie and/or TV Show:  Anything by Quentin Tarantino


Who would play you in a movie? George Goebel


Favorite foods: Bratwurst (Packer fan) and anything with Sriracha on it.


Hobbies: Hiking, biking, riding my Honda Helix and landscaping.


Bad habit:  Speaking the truth when people don't want to hear it


Most influential teachers:  Jim Wolfe, Farrell Morris, Erwin Mueller and Charles Owen.  Versatile musicians who encouraged me to play ALL styles of music but to pursue an orchestral career (for security, ha!).


Last book you read/what are you reading now?  "Curtains?: The Future of the Arts in America"  by Michael Kaiser


Favorite pieces of music: Tchaikovsky teachers said I'd outgrow this phase but he wrote some great cymbal parts.  West Side story..American music that bridged the gap between classical/jazz/latin.


Dream vacation/trip: Brazil...percussion there is a way of life free from the written page.


What is your favorite thing about living in Grand Rapids?  It is so easy to get around GRR (especially on a scooter).  I have a 12 minute commute to the hall and a 8 minute ride to Cannonsburg in the summer.  Also celebrating (with the trombones after a concert) at Founders, as we're all Mug Club members.


Last words/parting thoughts: Imagine having a job where you get paid for hitting things. I still pinch myself thinking of my life this simply.  Of course the trick is hitting the right thing at the right time.  My job with the GR Symphony has allowed me to influence a generation of student drummers and percussionists who play everything from classical and jazz to heavy metal and world music.  We often don't realize the power that music has on impressionable young people.  Music is a gift to be shared with all.

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