Internationally renowned, award-winning marimbist and clinician Linda Maxey has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls, including Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall, but she believes connecting with the audience is more important than venue size or location.
“Performing music is a joy in itself,” she says.
“When the performer feels ‘at one’ with the audience, magic can happen through the music.”
Maxey’s been under music’s magical spell since her birth in Toccoa, Georgia, in 1942. Her mother taught piano in their home, so she was exposed to music every day. She played piano by ear at 3 and learned to read music at 4.
“My mother had accompanied a marimbist in her college conservatory, and she bought a small marimba with her first paycheck,” Maxey says.
“The keyboard is like a piano and the hands play independently, so it was easy for me to play. That marimba became my ‘fun’ instrument. I remember thinking it had the most beautiful sound in the world, and I wished everyone could hear it.”
When she was 11, the Texas-Oklahoma Kiwanis District sponsored her to play at the Kiwanis International Convention in Madison Square Garden.
“They chartered a train to New York, and it stopped for sight-seeing along the way, including Washington, D.C., where I performed at a banquet for senators,” she says.
“I remember how much fun it was to play in the big auditorium. I never knew what being nervous was until I was in high school and heard people talk about it.”
She graduated with a music degree from the University of North Texas, Denton, in 1963, married her husband, Larry, then completed her master’s in music theory at Eastman School of Music, Rochester, in 1967.
“It was there I learned marimba was a legitimate classical instrument, so I dropped piano to focus exclusively on the marimba,” she says.
Maxey moved to Lawrence in 1970 when Larry became a clarinet professor at Kansas University. In 1995, they were both invited to do a concert tour in Lithuania.
“I fell in love with the country,” she says.
“I don’t have Lithuanian heritage, but I felt a strong kinship with the country and wanted to return.”
She was awarded two Fulbright Senior Scholarships and returned to teach at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater and learned Lithuanian. She’s translated Lithuanian documents into English, established a Lithuanian Scholarship Fund at KU and a Maxey Scholarship fund at Western Michigan University to enable Lithuanian students to study in the U.S.
Maxey’s performed, presented clinics and master classes at major universities throughout the world, including Russia, France, Sweden and the Netherlands, and headed the Jury for International Drums and Percussion competitions. She received an honorary doctorate from the Lithuanian Academy in 2002 and won the Intellectuals of Lithuania and the USA 2011 award “for her outstanding work in promoting closer educational and cultural relations.”
“It’s always been important for me to help people connect through music, and connect gifted students with the international music community,” she says.