Jane Boxall ~solo marimba ~ full biography
Dr. Jane Boxall (b. 1980) is an award-winning international concert artist. Born in southeast England, Jane’s most prized childhood possession was an eight-note xylophone on which she played energetically and endlessly. When Jane was 11, she jumped at the chance to actually learn how to play percussion, via school lessons with Ron Forbes (previous teacher of superstar percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie). Acing the audition with her ability to move hands and feet simultaneously, Jane went on to perform with various regional groups, including (aged 12) a performance with Ron Forbes’ percussion ensemble in the Royal Festival Hall, London.
Living on a farm, there were few distractions from music practice, and Jane “entertained” her family (and cattle) with enthusiastic drumkit practice throughout her teens. During her last year of secondary school, Jane discovered keyboard percussion, and would spend hours of each day in a school cupboard bashing a vintage vibraphone. Often, these were the same hours during which she was meant to be in Statistics class. Deciding to study music at college, Jane spent most of the next three years in a cupboard at the University of York, where she got to practice marimba for the first time. Falling in love with the warm sound and the melodic possibilities of the marimba, Jane went on to earn a MA in Contemporary Percussion Performance, with a heavy focus on solo marimba music. Largely self-taught during her BA, Jane gained a lot during her MA from study with percussionist Damien Harron, co-founder of BackBeat percussion quartet.
A marimba fanatic by day, Jane spent her nights behind the drumkit. Jane’s drumming with folk-grungers Heroic Trio was deemed ‘spectacular… powerful and impressive’ by York’s Vision magazine, while leedsmusicscene.co.uk noted Jane as ‘one of the most inventive percussionists I've witnessed’ during her tenure with Riot-Grrl trio Brutal Tinkerbell. Around this time, Jane also started teaching in local schools, and was the percussion head honcho at Queen Margaret’s School (York) and Leeds Grammar School. Professionally, she co-founded percussion quartet Big Bang Theory, and piano-percussion duo Jalapeno. Both ensembles were active in commissioning and performing new music, and Jalapeno performed regionally within the UK, and in Italy.
In 2004 Jane was offered the Swanson Fellowship for doctoral percussion studies at the University of Illinois, USA, so she sold her beautiful though unwieldy Malletech marimba and relocated to the cornfields of Champaign-Urbana. Here she studied with, and later taught alongside, renowned percussion professors William Moersch, Ricardo Flores, and Dana Hall. Jane’s doctoral thesis was on the topic of marimba music by women composers, and as part of this project she commissioned brand new works from composers living in Russia, the US, UK, and Ukraine. Jane also remained active as a teacher. She was an adjunct percussion professor at Olivet Nazarene University, and taught several hundred students via Skins-n-Tins Drum Shop, Champaign, and the Illinois Summer Youth Music program.
In 2006, Jane was a prizewinner in Illinois’ Krannert Debut Artist Competition, performing a showcase concert in Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Urbana IL. At the time of this award, Illinois newspaper The News Gazette quoted a judge of the competition: ‘[Jane is] a quintessentially natural performer. . . Incredible presence. Her body sings with movement and pure joy. She bowled [us] over with her musicality and her extramusical capacity to communicate’. In the Urbana-Champaign area, Jane would play frequently in concert halls, music festivals, art galleries, bars, cafes, elementary schools and kindergartens. UK solo tours took in Manchester University, Sheffield Cathedral, Devon’s Centre for Contemporary Arts and the Natural World, and St. Agnes’ Church in central London.
Always overwhelmed and humbled by the positive response of diverse audiences to the sound of the marimba, Jane is equally active in the realms of classical and popular music. Rock and pop musicians Jane has collaborated with include singer-songwriter Lynn O’Brien, indie-rock band Shipwreck, and country artist Angie Heaton. While in Illinois, Jane was the drummer for Triple Whip, a rock trio that evolved into an ‘ultra-tight, ultra-loud’ bass-drum duo. Drumming at a Triple Whip gig one Halloween, dressed somewhat impractically as a green-winged fairy, Jane caught the attention of Chicago drummer Michael Allen. Jane and Michael married in 2007.
Also in 2007, Jane became an endorser of Coe Percussion, and took delivery of her custom-built five-octave Coe marimba. This proved to be a gorgeous instrument with an extremely practical design for solo gigging (instrument design is a serious consideration when your instrument is 9ft long and you are 5ft4).
Since associating with Coe Percussion, Jane has played at The Hand House (Elizabethtown, NY), Eastman School of Music (Rochester, NY), Cowan Civic Center Theater (Lebanon, MO), Boneyard Arts Festival (Champaign, IL), Aroma Cafe (Champaign, IL) , Music Matters (Batavia, IL), Olivet Nazarene University (Bourbonnais, IL), and Smith Recital Hall (Urbana, IL). She also used her Coe marimba to record her debut album, ‘Spherical Music’ in summer 2008. This album features premiere recordings of early marimba compositions by Vida Chenoweth and Eloise Matthies Niwa, and recent commissions by international composers. The title track, composed by Eve Beglarian, saw Jane record 12 overlaid marimba parts, one after the other.
‘Spherical Music’ has received radio play from WPRB (Princeton, New Jersey), Concertzender (Amsterdam, Netherlands) and Radio Mona Lisa (Amsterdam, Netherlands), while Jane’s live recordings have been aired by WPGU (Champaign, IL), BBC Radio Devon (Devon, UK), and WEFT (Champaign, IL). A review published in Innocent Words magazine said: ‘The instrument has a natural quality, simply the vibration that occurs when mallets hit wood. It could probably sound clunky in unskilled hands, but Boxall makes it sound light and rhythmic, as if she’s controlling a storm of falling raindrops...sometimes the quick notes make it hard to believe everything is performed by a single person’.
In 2008 Jane left Illinois and relocated to beautiful Burlington, Vermont. Continuing to perform, record and tour as a soloist both regionally and internationally, Jane is also excited to have started two new collaborations – a duo with pianist Rose Chancler Feinbloom, and a drumkit-marimba project with Michael Allen. In the future, Jane hopes to continue bringing new music to new audiences.