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Theresa McCoy's got rhythm

If you indulge in our rich local music scene, you’ve probably heard Theresa McCoy making with the beat at many venues.

I’d anticipated an interview with Theresa for some time. It was just a crying shame that because of noise we had to relocate from the coffee shop to Donut Country for our chat. They have maple bars the size of a single-person kayak with my name spelled out in bacon. OK, they didn’t, but that would have been a plus. Donuts in hand, we launched into a booth and lively conversation.

“I’ve been playing drums since I was about 2,” Theresa said, “banging on pots and pans. First they [her parents] bought me a plastic drum, then a little drum set. My dad encouraged me. My mom kept trying with, ‘How about a violin? How about a flute?’ It was the drums that stuck.”

Theresa completed her degree in percussion performance at Cal State Northridge by way of the University of Oregon and Cal State Long Beach. Intrigued, she followed a woman marimba player to LA and studied with her, earning chops as a full-time studio musician during a 10-year stint there, but her husband and composer, Sean McCoy, didn’t care for the big city. They’d both grown up in the Rogue Valley, and once they began thinking about children, they agreed that returning to their roots and family was a good move. They have three grown daughters — all musicians with different vocations planned. Theresa’s mother-in-law, Pat Moran McCoy, is an accomplished jazz pianist. Family gatherings are music-filled.

Asking about a favorite genre may have been like asking who her favorite child is, as her love of craft carries a sincere appreciation for different eras and cultures. A professional percussionist is taught to perform using a wide array of instruments and styles. She might use a log drum for an Aztec folk song as she did recently with the Rogue Valley Chorale, filling in with bird song and other sounds from nature. Another night finds her onstage behind four timpani drums nearly as big as she, executing the rolls of a Dvorak symphony. That’s where I first noticed Theresa years ago, from the balcony at a Rogue Valley Symphony concert. I spotted this diminutive female person hammering away with authority on four giant kettledrums. I confess to a spring green shade of healthy envy.

Theresa is a congera for Salsa Brava, drummer for David Scoggins & OPUS 3, Charles Guy and Sonido Alegre, and she is part of the adjunct faculty at Southern Oregon University. But I’ve seen her fill in with other bands, and her carefree yet confident playing style always induces me to join in the dance. Oh, and when she isn’t keeping time with her instruments, she works in technology and marketing for a CPA firm. Talk about a double life. I wonder if they get after her for pencil tapping.

As suspected, she is the perfect example of living large and is a charismatic person by way of a natural curiosity about life. Theresa enjoys inspiring women of all ages to try their hand at drums — or wherever their passions lie. She loves sharing her gift with children.

“Schools are always a yes. I think inspiring music in young people is really important.”

I’m convinced Theresa will pack as much gusto into her life as possible. She has the energy and moxie to make things happen, with aspirations of painting and learning the bass still ahead of her. She’s a voracious reader, avid biker and enjoys philosophy.

Theresa and Sean are international travelers, having contracted the itch after a biking tour across Europe. You can hear her personal experiences with different cultures in a Latin samba or Aztecan ballad. She’s been there and heard that. She carries it inside and lives it out through each performance. Theresa McCoy embodies the rhythm of the world.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com and on Facebook.