Martha Hitchins, Timpani

Martha Hitchins, Timpani

Martha spent her early years in Austin, Minnesota, where her father was a butcher and her grandfather worked for Hormel Foods. Her mother, Jeannette, was a gifted musician who sang and also played the piano, organ, cornet and marimba. The family moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, where Martha received early training in piano and percussion. She began playing timpani at age 14.

Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony toured the Intermountain West in the 1970s, bringing live classical music performances to communities who seldom heard them. A chance meeting with Robert Lentz, timpanist of the Utah Symphony, led to lessons in Salt Lake City. Martha met Rudolf Serkin at the Mormon Tabernacle following a Utah Symphony concert, and began her path to the Curtis Institute of Music. She studied there with Gerald Carlyss, former timpanist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, who had also been a student of Robert Lentz. At the invitation of Rudolf Serkin, Martha spent three summers at the Marlboro Music Festival.

Following her 1978 graduation from Curtis, Martha remained in Philadelphia. She sight read a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, concert with the Minnesota Orchestra in 1979 when their timpanist refused to play because of the Three Mile Island accident. She also played percussion for a Philadelphia Orchestra children’s concert. Martha was timpanist of the Delaware Symphony from 1979-1988. She played the American Premiere of Johann Hertel’s 18th-century Concerto for Eight Timpani and Orchestra with the Delaware Symphony in 1980. Martha gave three more performances of the work, including one in 1984 with Concerto Soloists at the Academy of Music, Marc Mostovoy conducting.

In 1983 Martha began playing regularly with Concerto Soloists, now known as the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. She is also a staff member, currently serving as Personnel Manager. She was employed as Ensembles Coordinator from 1988-2013. Her duties have included hiring musicians to accompany Garrison Keillor, Julie Andrews, Elvis Costello, Josh Groban, The Royal Ballet of Covent Garden, and many others.

Having never seen an opera before coming to Philadelphia, Martha has been timpanist of the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra since 1980. She also plays for the Academy of Vocal Arts. Highlights have included playing for great singers such as Luciano Pavarotti, PBS telecasts and accompanying the rising stars of tomorrow at AVA.

Growing up in Western Colorado gave Martha a lifelong love of the Rocky Mountains and Denver Broncos. She shares her Philadelphia rowhouse with a talkative Siamese cat named Nora and two German Ringer timpani. Astral made acquisition of the drums possible. Martha believes that music, and being able to share it with others, are two of God’s greatest gifts. She is thankful to play for the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, and to live in this wonderful historic city.