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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
Michigan Heritage Awards


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Matt Kazmierski
2016 awardee, Plymouth (Wayne County), Marimba builder

Matt Kazmierski was born in Manistee, Michigan, and from an early age was surrounded by and encouraged to play music. His mother insisted on Matt taking piano lessons. In addition to playing trumpet, his father also taught shop at Manistee High School and made sure that Matt learned some of the skills and knowledge associated with machine and hand tools. When Matt was in high school, he began building his own percussion mallets, sticks, and drums, and repairing percussion instruments on the side.

Matt’s love of music continued into adulthood. He earned a bachelor of arts in music education from Eastern Michigan University and a master of arts in percussion performance from the University of Colorado Boulder. During college, he began playing marimba and after graduation he began making his first marimba that he modeled after the one he played in college. He reached out to marimba builders Matt Coe, Doug DeMorrow, and Ron Samuels to improve his technique and they freely shared their skills and trade secrets. Matt has continued this practice of sharing knowledge and has already taught four others the art of marimba making. He has also begun constructing custom guitars.

As of 2016, Matt is the band director at Ypsilanti High School. He has served as an MTAAP master artist twice (in 2014 and 2015) with apprentice Alex Smith. Their focus was on creating marimbas using sustainable or reclaimed materials, such as reusing Brazilian Rosewood, a wood typically used to create marimba bars and many other instruments, which is currently in short supply. Matt and Alex have donated some of their instruments to local band programs that could otherwise not afford to purchase their own marimba or percussion instruments.

For his work in educating other in the art of marimba building and his considerable skill, Matt Kazmierski is awarded the 2016 Michigan Heritage Award.

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