Jason Haaheim, timpani

Jason Haaheim leaning against a stone wall, grey suit jacket and teal glasses.

Jason Haaheim, timpani, creatively incorporates his knowledge and love for science with his passion for music. In this episode, he discussed in depth how understanding deliberate practice and peak performance helped propel him to the principal timpani of the MET Opera Orchestra.

Jason Haaheim, timpani

Jason Haaheim, principal timpani of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, shares his journey from Nanotechnology to the Opera pit.  His deep understanding of Deliberate Practice changed the way he prepared for performances and auditions.  Hear stories of how this style of practice broke down barriers and prepared him for life at the MET.

Key References In This Episode

Michael Lewis– Moneyball, The Big Short

Talent is Overrated– by Geoff Colvin

Anders Ericsson– Deliberate Practice

Growth Mindset– Carol Dweck

Jason Haaheim (pronounced HAW-heim) was appointed a Principal Timpanist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in 2013. In addition to performances at New York’s Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, Mr. Haaheim can be seen and heard performing with the MET Orchestra on television, international radio, and Live in HD movie theater broadcasts. Mr. Haaheim is on faculty at the NYU Steinhardt School of Music and the Bard Conservatory of Music. A sought-after clinician, Mr. Haaheim gives masterclasses both nationally and internationally, and is the founder of the Northland Timpani Summit, the Deliberate Practice Bootcamp, and the Artful Timpani Auditioning seminar. He is also a frequent coach for The Orchestra Now (TON), the Carnegie Hall National Youth Orchestra (NYO), and the New York Youth Symphony (NYYS).

Jason Haaheim in a tuxedo preparing a timpani to perform at the Metropolitan Opera

Guest Appearances

Jason Haaheim’s guest principal timpanist engagements have included the All Star Orchestra, the Seoul Philharmonic, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, and the Milwaukee Symphony. He is the principal timpanist of the Lakes Area Music Festival, and has also been a resident artist of the Twickenham Festival. Prior to the Met, Mr. Haaheim was principal timpanist of the Southwest Michigan Symphony and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and he performed regularly as timpanist with the Madison Symphony, Illinois Symphony, Peoria Symphony, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and the Illinois Philharmonic.

Studies and Science

Mr. Haaheim began studying piano in 4th grade, adding percussion studies in 5th grade. He holds a bachelor of arts degree with a double major in honors-music-performance and physics from Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, MN); he also holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from UC-Santa Barbara. Influential teachers have included John Tafoya (Indiana University, National Symphony), Dean Borghesani (Milwaukee Symphony), Jonathan Haas (Aspen Music Festival, NYU), and Robert Adney (Gustavus Adolphus College, MacPhail Music School). While auditioning and freelancing, Mr. Haaheim worked as a Senior Research and Development Engineer at NanoInk, a Chicago-area tech company. In this capacity, he gave invited talks on nanotechnology, authored multiple peer-reviewed publications, and was granted numerous patents. In 2017, this dual-career path was highlighted in an interview with Melissa Block on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

Jason Haaheim leaining over a timpani tuning

Chamber Music

Active in many musical areas, Jason Haaheim has also performed extensively as a chamber musician and jazz drummer. He collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma in a Civic Orchestra / Silk Road Ensemble performance, and recorded the premiere of Augusta Read Thomas’s “Terpsichore’s Dream” with members of the Chicago Symphony. Mr. Haaheim has performed with Chicago’s ensemble dal niente, and premiered Ryosuke Yagi’s “Mirrors…for timpani” with the UCSB Ensemble of Contemporary Music. Other projects have included drumming for the jazz-fusion quartet “The J3 Intent” and the alt-country band “The Lost Cartographers.” At Gustavus, Mr. Haaheim was selected for the honors recital and won first place in the orchestra’s concerto competition. Extra-musical interests include backpacking and hiking, rock climbing, and both downhill and cross-country skiing.

Deliberate Practice

Jason has incorporated his passion for implementing deliberate practice into a workshop series for classical musicians. “Deliberate practice” is the scientific method applied to your craft. And since we musicians inherently possess diverse skills, I believe deepening and broadening these skills is one of the best ways to ensure your own nimble adaptability in the Covid era. You can more easily pivot according to your circumstances. While leading these sessions, I draw upon my experience as both Met timpanist (7 years) and physics-trained nanotechnologist (10 years prior) to demonstrate the broad applicability of our musician’s skills. Driving home this message, we’re including a featured guest Q&A with Dr. Mark Almond, associate principal horn of the San Francisco Symphony, former medical doctor, and current Covid researcher. You’ll come away understanding the deliberate practice framework and its abundant applications…and our alumni have already attested that they feel better equipped to tackle the uncertainty of the coming months.

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