Good Vibrations With the Chris Barrick Quartet

Photo | Jonathan Barnes Chris Barrick will perform with his quartet at the Arts Barn on Saturday, April 7.

Photo | Jonathan Barnes
Chris Barrick will perform with his quartet at the Arts Barn on Saturday, April 7.

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By Lisa Cline

Despite playing with the National Symphony and the National Philharmonic orchestras, percussionist, jazz vibraphonist, drummer and educator Chris Barrick keeps it real with smaller gigs, like his Saturday, April 7 evening show at the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg.

Barrick garners high praise from music gurus at Downbeat magazine and the Washington City Paper, has become an in-demand musician on the D.C. jazz scene and gets a five-star rating on, which is kind of a Yelp for musicians.

When he is not performing, the Silver Spring resident is the director of percussion with Maryland Classic Youth Percussion and gives private lessons on everything from the drums to the marimba in his home studio.

Along with Allyn Johnson (piano), Eliot Seppa (bass) and Ele Rubenstein (drums), Barrick will fill the Arts Barn’s intimate 99-seat theater with a jazz experience orchestrated by Suzanne Takahashi, the Arts Barn’s music program coordinator.

“I met Chris after one of the jazz concerts in our music series last season. He came to hear Elijah (Jamal Balbed),” Takahashi recalled. “It was clear that Chris was well-known among the musicians on stage, as well as the musicians and jazz lovers in the audience. (They all) chimed in about wanting to hear him play at the Arts Barn. I listened to Chris’s music and we chatted further, eventually confirming a spot in our 2017-18 season.” spoke with Barrick about his upcoming performance and how his interest in the vibraphone and teaching evolved.

Kentucky, Cincinnati, Indiana, Silver Spring. … Where do you call home?

I’m definitely from the D.C. area and am back home now. We moved back here for my now-wife’s job with the NSO. I lived in Cincinnati for eight years so that started to feel like home but now that I’m back, it’s like, “Oh yeah! This is where I’m from.”

Is studying music like being an athlete — you practice every free moment?

I think there are a lot of similarities between sports and music: the constant practice, the uncertainty of outcome and the realization that you are ultimately in competition with yourself. Thankfully, music — jazz especially — requires a lot more creativity, and there are far fewer injuries.

How does one decide to take up the vibraphone?

My path was a little bit unusual. I started playing piano at a young age. My father is a professional drummer. Jazz was constantly on in the house. So, when I got a bit older (around 12 or 13), I decided to start playing jazz piano. Around that time, I started playing percussion in school. So, playing vibraphone was basically applying the music theory ideas I was learning from jazz piano to the vibraphone. It’s a lucky instrument to fall into because there are so few vibraphonists, but other musicians really like the sound, so I ended up getting to play with really advanced musicians at a relatively early age and learned a lot from them.

What is your favorite kind of music to play?

I love playing a lot of different types of music, but I’d pick jazz over all the others if I had to choose one. There’s just so much room for tradition and creativity simultaneously, and nothing else in music feels quite as good to me as playing behind a really swinging rhythm section.

What do you do in your spare time?

Right now, there’s very little. I’m fortunate enough to be pursuing a career in a field I love, so I’m pretty motivated to use the time I have to continue to grow artistically. With the little spare time I have, I like to spend it with my wife or hanging out with friends. Nothing too exciting.

Do you have a favorite venue?

I like rooms that have good acoustics (on the drier side so you can hear the other musicians clearly and so the audience can hear all the details of what’s happening). So for that reason, I like smaller rooms the best (like the Arts Barn). When the room and crowd are right, there is no greater feeling than taking everyone on a journey together.

The City of Gaithersburg’s Arts on the Green will present the Chris Barrick Quartet at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 7, at the Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg. For tickets—$25, $15 for students 18 and younger, $22 for groups of 10 or more—call the Arts Barn Box Office at 301.258.6394 or visit