Reynaliz Herrera is the director, composer, and lead performer of the theatrical percussion show “Ideas, Not Theories.” The performance features original music with unconventional instruments, such as bicycles, tap and body percussion, water, brushes, as well as traditional percussion instruments, like marimbas and drums.
Women are underrepresented in the percussion world. Our weekly series, Woman Crush Wednesday (#WCW), aims to recognize, celebrate, and inspire female percussionists of all stripes. Each Wednesday we’ll feature a profile of a drummer, who will share tips, advice, and videos.
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What is your city, country, and age?
I am 33 years old. I live in Boston, MA, but I am originally from Monterrey, Mexico.
What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?
It depends which kind of music and ensemble I am performing with, but since I created “Ideas, Not Theories,” my setup has consisted of three bicycles, horns, buckets full of water, cups and brushes, wooden floors for tap dance and body percussion, a table, a snare drum, two toms, and sometimes a marimba and two vibraphones.
What bands do you perform with, if any?
Besides “Ideas, Not Theories,” I also do some freelance work in Boston and New York City, especially in the genres of contemporary and theatrical percussion, and have also performed in a lot of different settings, such as symphony orchestras, as a soloist, world music, rock bands, dance companies, and theatrical productions.
Some of these have included The National Arts Center Orchestra as extra percussionist and soloist percussionist, The Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, The Orchestra de la Francophonnie Cannadienne, The Boston Opera Collaborative, Orquesta Sinfonica de Nuevo Leon, Grooversity (aNova Brazil), Band Muy Cansado, Danza Contemporanea en Concierto, and Masary Studios.
What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?
At the age of 12 I suddenly became obsessed with the idea of becoming a singer and forming a band. However, I did not know how to play any instruments, sing, or read music. I had the idea that if I practiced by myself in my backyard using pots and pans, toy guitars, and a fake microphone, that would make my dream come true. I would ask my sister (who didn’t know any music either) to be my bandmate. After a while of seeing this, my mom encouraged me to enter the Conservatory in Mexico. I attempted to do voice and I failed. My alternative was percussion and guitar. I took up both and, in the end, percussion won my heart. Of course, I expanded from pots and pans to all the classical percussion instruments (marimba, xylophones, snare drums, timpani), world percussion (Congas, bongos, bata, etc.), and now, unconventional percussion, among them, bicycles.
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
I don’t have a “favorite,” but I have always been inspired by Evelyn Glennie. She is a very honest and expressive musician, and the first classical percussion touring soloist. Also, my former teachers have inspired me in different ways: Noel Savon, Ian Bernard, Bob Becker, Keith Aleo, Nancy Zeltsman, Sam Solomon, and John Grimes.
How do you practice? Do you have a routine?
For my first 15 years of playing music, I practiced from three to eight hours daily, and eventually I developed a routine that consisted of doing technical exercises and warmups for every percussion instrument and then approaching whichever piece I was working at the moment. At some points I would be very systematic in my practicing, I wouldn’t let myself go further in difficulty if I wasn’t playing perfectly at the level that I was currently at. Right now, as a professional, I have learned more efficiency and I usually would keep it up with a few exercises that work for me, and after that I would work on whatever music or pieces I am performing next.
Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you would like to share with Drum readers?
Quality over quantity. In terms of technique I would rather practice an exercise that works for me, and practice it really, really well and with great attention to detail (technique, musicality, speed, dynamics, etc.) rather than practicing a bunch of exercises without the same amount of detail and quality. (Repeat what gives results!)
In terms of advice, don’t be afraid to go your own way, because this field is super competitive. I have seen a lot of aspiring artists trying to “be the best” or think that they have to follow a certain path or other musicians’ paths in order to be successful. My advice is: Create your own path.
As artists, the goal post for “success” is always moving. There’s not one “I made it!” point. How do you think about and define success?
A successful artist to me is someone who has found their own artistic voice, a voice which is authentic and not pretentious, and which contributes to something new or different or opens the door to something new or different.
Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?
No quotes or sayings, but I do try to be true to myself, and make the best out of what I have.
When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?
My first step to create a new work is to sort of do a “stream of consciousness” session where I let my ideas naturally flow (in a sort of improvisation way), and then after that I see where that takes me and I select what I like and what I don’t and move from there in order to shape my new creation.
How important is failure in making music/performing?
It is very important, just like anything else, because you learn from it and grow. Also, you can use “failure” as a trial and error thing, and learn about what works better for you in the end.
Women are underrepresented in drumming. Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
Use the under-privilege that we have as more of a reason to succeed. Go for it, let’s push each other up, empower each other, and change things.
Where else to find Reynaliz
Facebook: Ideas Not Theories