It’s not every day that you see women emerging to play the marimba, a classical musical instrument played dominantly by male players. And it’s not every day that you see percussionist Anneliese Walrath, a senior music major at Palm Beach Atlantic , on the spotlight. But as of late, you can spot her on the cover of Centre Stage—the University's glossy publication that features PBA’s music, dance and theatre programs.
The picture is powerful. A young beautiful woman on percussion. The stuff that inspires younger females to follow that dream, too.
“I was certainly not ready for that,” Walrath said laughing as she recalls the day the cover was revealed in front of her music peers and professors.
Unbeknownst to her, her father had learned that she was being featured on the cover and made plans to drive from Belleview, a 230-mile drive, to come see her react to the news. “Without knowing it, Anneliese, herself gave me the idea,” said her father, AJ Walrath. “She called me after she was asked to do the photo shoot, to be submitted as one of the possible cover candidates. She told me that if she was selected, she would let me know at a concert.”
Several weeks later, Mary Jacobs, assistant vice president for Special Projects and Parent Relations, emailed AJ to let him know that Anneliese was on the cover. “I let Mary know of the surprise that Anneliese had considered, and she ran with the idea. Through her hard work and the efforts and approval of others, it [his surprise] came off without a glitch.”
Walrath was more surprised to see herself on the cover than to see her dad at the event. A professed introvert—the type of person who likes to be behind-the-scenes rather than on center stage, however, she feels honored all the same.
The marimba is not a common choice amongst female musicians, she’s the first to admit. “When I play, I hope there’s someone that I may inspire someday,” Walrath said.
Last summer, she attended Leigh Howard Stevens New Jersey Pre-College Summer Marimba Seminar in New Jersey, where there were about 40 students and five were females, including her. The high male to female percussionist ratio has to do mostly with the way people think, as they envision male students on percussion or drums.
But that has not deterred her plans to teach music theory and continue playing the marimba—an instrument who found her back in high school and is now the object of her affection.
“I like the math part of music,” she said, and she’s equally passionate about teaching theory. “Most people hate it, but for some reason, I find it fascinating. It is the foundation for every musician, and it starts with the teacher wanting to teach it.”
Walrath began playing piano when she was five-years-old. Though she’s always loved music, it wasn’t until she came to PBA that she started to think seriously about making it her career. At the seminar, she studied under Nancy Zeltsman, a marimba player, who aside from being a performer is also a marimba teacher at Boston Conservatory, where Walrath hopes to pursue her master's.
While in New Jersey, Walrath looked to buy a marimba and found one for sale in New York. She took the train into the city, and suddenly was surprised. “I met her [Zeltsman] the week before I found out this marimba was for sale; I actually bought it from a guy who’d bought it from her.”
The seminar was not too far from her mother’s hometown. And one day she went for a run and found herself at the place she had visited many times before when she was younger. Those memories made her think of her mom.
Her mother Kelley passed away last year after battling MSA. For Walrath, it was not so much her mom’s death but watching her suffer for 10 years that impacted her life. Often feeling lost, Walrath found herself retreating from others, most especially from her father. Thankfully, things have changed.
“Kelley passing has personally impacted each of us in differing ways,” he said. “I believe that it has helped to bring Anneliese and I closer together.”
Anneliese Walrath is pursuing her dream to be a music teacher and a professional percussionist. If PBA has made your dream come true, we invite you to share it with us.