Prove your humanity

Brian Maloney is the Principal Percussionist of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. Originally from Upstate New York, Maloney obtained his Master of Music degree from Boston University.  Before joining WASO in 2016, the percussionist had already performed with several orchestras throughout the United States, receiving a number of prestigious fellowships along the way.

In the lead up to his performance Star Wars, we sat down with Maloney to talk about what it’s like to be a part of an orchestra, and what led him to Perth.

Maloney began percussion at age 11 in a school band. Growing up in a rural area, orchestra wasn’t exactly an option.

“I had the choice between trumpet and drums. I had asthma so I chose drums, but in retrospect, trumpet might have improved my asthma,” Maloney says.

The music scene in the rural area where he grew up was very different to the city, “I played a lot of drum set as a kid, our town had a lot of rock and roll, bluegrass and Appalachian folk music.”

During middle school, his band teacher encouraged him to audition for the Empire State Youth Orchestra, and that’s really where his journey started.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at uni or after that,” Maloney says, “but I knew that I liked making music.”

Maloney went on to acquire a Bachelor of Music degree from the New England Conservatory before completing his Master of Music degree from Boston University. He began studying with Boston Symphony percussionist Will Hudgins, and was named a finalist for the position of Principal Percussion with WASO, as well as Principal Timpani with the New World Symphony in Miami, Florida.

When choosing between Perth and Miami, Maloney says that it was a pretty easy choice.

Maloney had never been to Perth, although he admits he had to google where it was. It was a “scrupulous” audition process to get a position at WASO.

“I sent my CV, then I got invited to send in a video,” he says.

“From there I had a three week audition period which included me acting as principal percussion, a reading session with the orchestra, and then a solo audition on stage in front of all the members of the orchestra by myself.”

“It was a really good challenge, very intense, but I made it through.”

A Principal Percussionist with WASO for over two years, he has played everything from opera, children’s shows, film scores and symphonic concerts.

Maloney’s first six months included a Sleeping Beauty ballet, performing with world-renowned jazz musicians from New York City, and he even supported Hilltop Hoods at Perth arena.

“I didn’t know who they were, I thought they were a children’s act. I was telling a friend about it, and she was like, Hilltop Hoods are definitely not a kids group.”

Brian explains the variety WASO gives him is amazing but it’s not without its challenges, telling me about the practice and dedication it requires.

“The expectation is that you go in knowing the music. Sometimes you only have one or two rehearsals before a show, so it is essential that we go in prepared.

“In my personal practice, I’m already looking at music for performances in two to four months’ time.”

When asked about the role of percussion in an orchestra, Maloney says it’s very different to the role that drums play in a rock band.

“It’s like the icing on the cake, percussion plays a very interesting roll in an orchestra.

“In a normal band drummers play constantly so they’re like a backbone, but in an orchestra percussion tends to be more of a special effect.

“However, there are moments where we become the backbone, especially in John Williams’ music.”

At 28 years of age, Maloney already has a number of phenomenal achievements under his belt. From playing with the Boston Philharmonic and the Boston Pops Orchestra, to the Oregon Symphony and the New World Symphony in Miami, the sky is the limit.

When asked if he was planning to take over the world of percussion, Maloney says he’s actually really happy in Perth and loves playing with WASO.

‘There are so many different genres that we perform, so it gives me a chance to develop my own musicality. I’m still figuring out myself musically and that’s going to take me a while.

“You won’t meet a professional musician that says they’ve stopped learning. You keep learning till the end.”


Don’t miss Brian performing the epic John Williams’ Oscar-winning score, Star Wars: A New Hope, with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra onSeptember 28 and 29. Tickets available through Ticketek.