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Meet Katie Eikam

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Eikam.

Katie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I spent my childhood growing up in a small Northern Californian town named Truckee, located in the Lake Tahoe area of the Sierra Nevadas. When I was in third and fourth grade, I was homeschooled for just those two years. During that time, my mom had asked me if I wanted to do any extracurricular activities for school and since my twin brother at the time had been a few months into piano lessons, I thought I should pursue music lessons too. Without any second thought, I chose the drums and haven’t stopped playing since.

When you grow up in a place like the Sierra Nevadas, one way or another, you find yourself immersed in nature. As kids, we were always outside. The time of year never mattered. In summer, we were hiking, swimming, exploring the woods. In winter, we were skiing and sledding. So I believe a little part of me thought I was going to grow up to be an athlete of some kind. Up until the first few years of high school, I was serious about playing softball. As much as I loved the sport, the other girls were growing bigger and stronger and I was still quite small which hindered my abilities to play. As I grew away from the sport, I grew towards music. Once I fully immersed myself in all aspects of music, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. It was what I had to do.

In the fall of 2012, I moved to Southern California to attend Chapman University. There I studied percussion with Nick Terry and Justin DeHart. I graduated with a Bachelor of Music and then continued on to my Masters at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). At CalArts, I started growing into my musician shoes and began blooming into the artist I wanted to be. There I was studying with professionals like Amy Knoles, Jonathan Hepfer, Houman Pourmedhi, Nick Deyoe, and Randy Gloss. I developed my contemporary and experimental skills while also learning about North Indian and Persian traditions. From CalArts, I’ve met some of my closet friends and collaborators. It is also where my percussion duo (DesoDuo) with Kevin Good formed, as well as my quartet (Quartet Friends) with Richard An, Kevin Good, and Wells Leng. In 2018, I graduated from CalArts with my Masters of Fine Arts.

Over the last few years here in LA, I have been freelancing and performing with my groups DeosDuo and Quartet Friends. In conjunction with playing, I have been teaching music at local high schools in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think that if you truly believe in what you do, then there is always going to be something along the way to challenge it. Whether it’s money, mental health, physical health, sexism, racism, your living situation and so forth. I don’t know too many artists that have had a smooth journey to get to where they are today. Unfortunately, women in a male-dominated field aren’t always treated with respect. Personally, I have been told “just stand there and look pretty”, “why don’t you just play flute?” and “choose a different career” just because of my gender. Every female percussionist I know has received comments like this. By teaching at k-12 schools, I hope to change this stigma for future percussionists.

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
As a percussionist, I focus on performing in contemporary, experimental, and in improvisatory styles. When I get the chance, I also love playing hand drums such as North Indian Tabla, Persian Daf, and other frame drums. Something that is important to me and my craft is the idea of be organic. In DesoDuo, our thesis is “the unearthing of practices and resonances into handcrafted performances”. The constant exploration of this idea fuels our creativity. Each project that is carried out from A to Z has been conscientiously cared for and crafted. In some instances, this means having to build instruments, collaborating with composers, and using nature as inspiration.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Of course, being fundamentally strong at your craft is very important but there is something to be said to the balance of managing your work as a creative, managing yourself as your own boss/promoter, and knowing how to work with others. Having all of these skills is critical.

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