Celebrate the rich history of the home where The Philadelphia Orchestra first made its sound famous—the glorious “Grand Old Lady of Locust Street.”
Don Liuzzi was born and raised in Weymouth, Massachusetts, and completed high school in Philadelphia at the Franklin Learning Center. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Michigan and his Master of Music degree from Temple University. His primary teachers were Alan Abel, Charles Owen, and John Soroka.
Before joining The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1989, Mr. Liuzzi was a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony percussion section from 1982 to 1989. While in Pittsburgh he taught percussion and conducted the percussion ensemble at Duquesne University, was assistant conductor of the Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestra, and appeared on PBS’ nationally syndicated Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, performing marimba and percussion solos.
Beyond his over 60 commercial recordings as principal timpani of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Mr. Liuzzi can be heard on several Decca releases with Seiji Ozawa’s Saito Kinen Festival Orchestra, with which he has been a guest timpanist for five seasons. As a former percussionist with the Network for New Music, and also for area composers, he has recorded contemporary chamber works for the CRI, Crystal, and Albany labels. His percussion solo and chamber CD release from 2012, Movement in Time (Equilibrium), is volume I of the Philadelphia Percussion Project. This first volume features music by Maurice Wright, Maurice Rissman, and William Kraft. Volume II, Zones, was released in May 2015 and is a Philadelphia Orchestra percussion group (POPG) recording featuring Jennifer Higdon’s Zones, as well as six other world premiere recordings including his own composition, Seoul Spirit. A participating musician in the documentary film Music from the Inside Out (2005), Mr. Liuzzi also served as the film’s coordinating producer and was integral in helping develop the accompanying middle school teaching curriculum published by Alfred Books. The feature length film by Anker Productions, which features The Philadelphia Orchestra, was re-released digitally on iTunes in June 2013 and is also available on Netflix. Mr. Liuzzi’s other electronic media activity (under his company name of Beat the Drum Entertainment, Inc.) has included two other CD projects with the DePue Brothers Band: performing drums and singing, and executive producing Weapons of Grass Construction and their latest album, When It’s Christmas Time, released in December 2013.
Mr. Liuzzi has given master classes at most major music schools throughout the United States and in Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Korea, Japan, and China. He has been a percussion and timpani coach at the National Orchestral Institute, the New World Symphony, the Pacific Music Festival, the Canton International Summer Music Academy, the Lindenbaum Music Festival (in Korea), the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, and the National Youth Orchestra USA run by Carnegie Hall. He joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in January 1994. He has also held faculty positions at Rowan University and guest faculty status at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the Manhattan School of Music. Mr. Liuzzi just completed 10 years as music director of the Philadelphia All City High School Orchestra, and is founding conductor of the Curtis Institute’s 20-21 New Music Ensemble.
Mr. Liuzzi’s early orchestral experience included the Flint Symphony, the Michigan Opera Theater Orchestra, and the Colorado Philharmonic. He has also played in the Spoleto Festival Orchestra for three seasons and was a Tanglewood Fellow in 1980. In July 1996 he made his solo debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, and his subscription solo debut in January 1998. Having consulted with Yamaha for over 15 years on the development of professional timpani, he is now a Yamaha performing artist, with a highly-regarded YouTube solo appearance and interview through his Yamaha affiliation. He is married with two adult daughters.
Photo: Jessica Griffin