Like/Dislike with James Wyman, BSO principal timpanist

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James Wyman.

Let's get this out of the way: A timpanist is that cool one in the orchestra who gets to bang on one of those huge drums in the back.

Timpani has long been a big part of the life of 30-year-old James Wyman, now in his first year with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. When he was playing the piano at the age of 9, he was also playing the drum set. Moving on to percussion and timpani with youth orchestras in Cleveland, all it took was watching his teacher, Paul Yancich, the principal timpanist of the Cleveland Orchestra, to realize that timpani was for him.


And this weekend, his timpani will be paired with a Hollywood classic, as the BSO performs live as "Casablanca" plays on the big screen (performances are Thursday and Friday at the Meyerhoff and Saturday at Strathmore). "It's such a different experience when the soundtrack is played live right in front of you," said Wyman, who lives in the Idlewood neighborhood of Baltimore. "The Meyerhoff will become the classiest movie theater anybody has ever been to."

Before the concert, Wyman talked to us about the instrument he wishes he could play, the existence of mullets and more.


Worst pet peeve? People who are unprepared! Also people who don't use their turning signals. That drives me nuts!

What songs are you loving/hating right now? Loving: "Pick Up the Pieces" by Average White Band and "In the Stone" by Earth, Wind and Fire. Hating: all overplayed songs on the radio, like "Happy" and "Talk Dirty."

Your worst habit? Waiting until the last minute to do things. I'm a professional procrastinator.

Trend that has exceeded its natural lifespan? Mullets. Why do these still exist?

Last movie you liked and last you disliked? Liked: "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." Disliked: "Anchorman 2." What a huge disappointment.

TV shows you can't get enough of? "Castle," "Fast N' Loud" and any cop show.

Favorite and least favorite fashion statement? Favorite: fitted gray suit, no tie, with gray suede shoes! Least favorite: men's skinny jeans.

Favorite place to get a drink in Baltimore? I enjoy going to the Brewer's Art and the Owl Bar. Both have great beers with fun atmospheres. They are also both within walking distance from the symphony hall.


Instrument you wish you could play? I wish I knew how to play the mandolin. I'm a fan of folk music, and wish I could do what they do.

Best part of the playing with the BSO? Being able to make music every day with great colleagues. Playing new repertoire every week always keeps the job fresh and exciting, and performing live in front of huge audiences is always exhilarating.

Your favorite thing about Baltimore? Having such a great symphony orchestra with a thriving arts scene. Our audiences are so loyal and supportive.