Soloist Spotlight: Michael Blancaflor

Drummer and percussionist Michael Blancaflor is an active performer, educator, and clinician, and holds positions as adjunct faculty at the University of New Haven, percussion artist for Cheshire Public Schools (Cheshire, CT), Hall High School (West Hartford, CT), and is on staff at the Jim Royle Percussion Studios (Fairfield, CT). 

On Friday, January 24th, at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, Michael will join TCS to perform Alexandra Gardner’s Just Say Yes, for drumset and orchestra, a New York City premiere.

TCS: Tell us a little something fun about yourself that isn’t in your bio!

MB: I love to cook and cook for family and friends. Cooking, music, and the arts share creative DNA. 

TCS: How did you come to choose your instrument?

MB: I was an energetic child who couldn’t focus through piano lessons. I saw a band demonstration when I was in 4th grade and gravitated towards the drums and then the world of percussion. 

TCS: What has been your proudest moment or moments in music so far?

MB: I try to be proud of all of my musical endeavors. Whether performing with The Chelsea Symphony, a musical theater pit, children’s concerts, or club dates, the effort and musical approach should be as consistent as possible. 

TCS: What have been the biggest challenges of your career so far?

MB: Balancing personal life with professional life. Finding a good balance between performing music and teaching music on a consistent and lucrative basis has been quite a challenge! 

TCS: What has been the funniest onstage moment you’ve seen or have experienced?

MB: I was performing in wind ensemble during my undergraduate studies at the University of Connecticut. I was performing a rain stick at the end of one of the pieces and unfortunately, after I thought all the beads went through, there was a little dribble at the very end, cracking the very dramatic moment that was created. 

TCS: When was your first TCS concert? What brought you to the group?

MB: I don’t remember my first concert with The Chelsea Symphony, there’s been many seasons and some I’ve been able to participate, some I was unavailable. My good friend and conductor (ed: and now co-Artistic Director), Matthew Aubin, brought me into the ensemble when they needed some percussionists to fill out the section and I’m very fortunate and grateful for the opportunity. 

TCS: Do you have any favorite TCS memories?

MB: Performing under the giant whale at the Museum of Natural History during the TCS 2018-19 season was very memorable. Also the first TCS concert at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music as well as my first soloist performance with TCS, of the Picarazzi Vibraphone Concerto were very intimate experiences with the audience.

TCS: What keeps you coming back to play with TCS?

MB: The people and the music! I’ve made some really great friends and colleagues through The Chelsea Symphony sharing some great music and performances! 

TCS: What sets TCS apart from other orchestras?

MB: Great programming, great musicians, great leadership, great community.

TCS: Who are your favorite musicians, past and/or present?

MB: Sample list - in no particular order - Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Jeff Porcaro, John Bonham, Frank Zappa, Ruth Underwood, Alex Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen, Emil Richards, Alexander Lepak, Steve Gadd, Steve Smith, Vinnie Colaiuta, Andres Forero, Mark Guiliana, Chick Corea, Brian Wilson, Vulfpeck, Snarky Puppy, Prince, and all my friends who I have the honor/privilege to play music with! 

TCS: What do you carry with you in your instrument case?

MB: For me, which case? You’re talking to a percussionist who has way too much gear! In the stick bag - lots of drumsticks and mallets, hi hat clutch, pencil, eraser, drum dampening materials, gaffers tape, multi-tool, drum key. 

TCS: What is your ideal day of practice?

MB: A few hours to be able to work on new concepts, maintain different musical styles, and then practice specific musical challenges. If I can get 3-4 hours - that’s a great day! 

TCS: What do you do to set yourself up for success on the day of an important performance?

MB: Sleep! Wake up to good coffee and morning hand warm-up. Mental run-throughs and relaxed pre-performance routine which involves breathing and focus exercises and hand warmups. 

TCS: Why did you choose to perform this piece with TCS?

MB: Matthew Aubin planted the seed a few seasons ago and I really enjoyed Alexandra Gardner’s work. When it came time to select a piece for this season, a new work by a woman composer, written for a rock star seemed like a great programming choice. 

TCS: What are some things you learned while preparing? Did anything about the piece surprise you?

MB: Trying to get into the composer’s head and how drumset should fit into a symphonic ensemble has presented its challenges. Since my part is mostly improvised, I tried to get into the head of Alan White, drummer for rock band Yes (who the piece was written for), while also making it my own. 

TCS: Do you have a favorite recording of this piece?

MB: There are no public recordings of “Just Say Yes” by Alexandra Gardner. I believe this will be the New York Premiere. 


Join us as TCS welcomes drummer and percussionist Michael Blancaflor on Friday, January 24th, at 8pm, at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music at 450 W. 37th Street, performing Alexandra Gardner’s Just Say Yes!