Emerson Wahl puts collaboration at the forefront of his endeavors as a percussionist and composer. Wahl is in quest of ways to create compelling performances through the amalgamation of the avant-garde and status quo. His focus is on the intersection of experimental music, popular music, orchestral music, and interdisciplinary work. Wahl is currently based in Seattle, Washington.
In the realm of experimental and chamber music, Wahl has recently performed and collaborated with Inverted Space Ensemble, Modern Music Ensemble of University of Washington (directed by Dr. Cristina Valdés), The Sound Ensemble, and the UW Percussion Ensemble. He continues to work with these groups performing experimental and avant-garde music, under the batons of Christian Wolff, Ludovic Morlot, Stephen Drury, and Jan Williams to name a few. At his alma mater California State University Northridge (CSUN), Wahl performed with the progressive flute ensemble Discovery Players under the direction of Lawrence Kaplan. Groups he founded and co-founded include: progressive metal ensemble The Unborn (c. 2000), experimental folk-rock band Knife Jockeys (c. 2008), and The Wahlflower Jazz Trio (2010).
Mr. Wahl’s compositions, arrangements, and études can be heard and/or viewed on his website. His most recent project is an arrangement of the entire My Bloody Valentine album Loveless, for vibraphone and other instruments, a collaboration with Blake Straus. The Farewell Anthem (2016) is an example of his exploration of the talkbox, in which he weaves it in over celestial, yet distorted shoegaze textures. His intention to keep percussion at the forefront of his compositions, while entwining his favorite styles from the turn of the century and post-modern era (shoegaze, dream-pop, progressive metal, grunge) contribute to his unique and fresh approach to composition. He composed his own album The Greenhouse Suite in 2011, on which he played virtually all the instruments. It is a concept album, drawing inspiration from the world of plants, and features the aforementioned talkbox.
One of the major highlights of Wahl’s endeavors as a composer and percussionist has been his relationship with percussion legend William Kraft, who he has spent a great deal of time with. Subsequently, Wahl has learned much about Kraft's compositional process and found a special interest in his Concerto for Four Percussion Soloists and Orchestra. Wahl eventually wrote an essay on it which was edited by Kraft himself, and is available to read on this website. Kraft also reviewed and mentored Wahl through the composition process of his Theme and Variations for Snare Drum.
Wahl has held the position of Principal Timpani with the University of Washington Symphony, Principal Percussion with the University of Washington Wind Ensemble, Principal Percussion with the California State University Northridge Symphony Orchestra, and has played with various other distinguished orchestras. Recently, Wahl played timpani with the University of Washington Symphony Orchestra in a side by side collaboration concert with members of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Ludovic Morlot. He has played under the batons of Ludovic Morlot, Christian Wolff, Stephen Drury, Stephen Piazza, Dr. David Rahbee, Dr. John Roscigno, John Clayton, Dr. Michael Shasberger, and Dr. Lawrence Stoffel, to name a few. Venues he has performed at include but are not limited to: Chicago Symphony Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Valley Performing Arts Center, Meany Theatre, Plaza Del Sol at CSUN, and the Sunken Gardens at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.
At CSUN, Mr. Wahl was an active member of the CSUN Percussion Ensemble, with whom he premiered two of his own arrangements, one of which he conducted. Both arrangements are of songs from two of his favorite post-modern bands, Deftones, and Broken Social Scene, respectively. Please take a listen to these arrangements on this website.
In the field of music pedagogy, Wahl has taken on undergraduate students at the University of Washington, instructed the Grant High School Marching Lancers drum line (Van Nuys, California), and taught privately at multiple music academies in California (Foothills Music Academy, Seoul Music Academy, and Guitar Merchant). He has composed numerous études for his students, and transcribed a large amount of music for them as well; these études can be found under the manuscripts section of his website.
Wahl's primary teachers include: Raynor Carroll, Dr. Bonnie Whiting, Mike Crusoe, John Magnussen, Aaron T. Smith, Chuck Silverman, and Bruce Becker. He has also received formative mentoring from William Kraft, Jan Williams, Michael Werner, Stuart Gerber, Naoko Takada, Robert Carson, Tim McIntyre, Bernard Galane, Chuck Flores, Glen Sobel, Andrew Megna, Jason Harnell, and Third Coast Percussion. He was the recipient of the Danielle Salyer Memorial Scholarship for musical and academic excellence from Pierce College in 2013, and the Alcor Endowed Scholarship Fund by the University of Washington upon his acceptance as a graduate student in 2016.
Emerson Wahl holds the Master of Music degree in Percussion Performance from University of Washington, the Bachelor of Music degree in Percussion Performance from California State University, Northridge, and the Associate of Arts degree in Drum Set Performance from Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, CA.
Photograph: Warren Woo