Student Profile: Percussionist Mika Godbole

Mika Godbole chalks it all up to hormones.

Godbole admits that her choice to become a musician “was because of a boy. He was playing bass drum in a marching band. From then on I said, ‘I want to do that.’ I wanted to be around him.”

Mike Godbole
Photos: Mo Daoud Rutgers University Foundation

The drummer boy is long gone. But nearly 20 years later, Godbole’s passion for percussion endures.

Godbole, a Mason Gross graduate student, presented her recital, Steve Reich’s minimalist Music for 18 Musicians, on March 5, 2012, at the 740-seat Nicholas Music Center.

Reich is a bold choice, especially for someone seemingly as modest as Godbole, who at 32 carries herself like an unassuming undergrad, all long hair and wide, round eyes. The work requires Godbole to marshal the forces of four pianists, two clarinetists, one cellist, a violinist, an array of keyboard percussionists and a four-woman vocal ensemble. 

“With timpani [also known as the kettledrum], you’re always this low voice,” Godbole says. “I’m very shy. When I play the timpani, I feel like I have a voice—a contributing voice. I finally felt I could speak. I wasn’t saying anything that hadn’t been said before, but it was something.”

Godbole did not take a formal percussion lesson until she was 17. But what she lacked in experience she made up for in grit. As Godbole tells it, at her college audition, she informed her future teacher: “This is what I could do in four months; imagine what I could do in four years.” He took her on.

 “It was like learning to ride a unicycle,” she says. “I used to not sleep for days at a time. I didn’t know the rudiments. I was so far behind [the others]” that Godbole says she was forced to “count the lines” as she scrambled to read music. “I worked very hard and finally—timpani: I realized I was good at one instrument. Then there was hope.”

Ultimately, Godbole says, the sound of the timpani inspired her to press on.

Mika Godbole“I liked being inside the sound,” she remembers. “There’s something so cool about being inside something—you’re creating something, part of a whole. I’m glad I stuck with that feeling even when I stunk. I can’t tell you how much I cried [when I first started]. Everyone has that in life, when you hit a wall and you don’t know how to get to the other side.”

Eventually, she made it to the other side. Godbole earned a master’s of music at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J.; she arrived at Mason Gross in 2007. Two years later, she received an invitation to join a Mason Gross professor in a performance of Hector Berlioz’s Requiem alongside The Philadelphia Orchestra.

“To get from the point of ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’ to this—I’ll never forget it,” Godbole says. “Everything was worth it for that moment of playing with my teachers onstage. I can’t believe it even happened.”

Godbole is a self-professed “scaredy cat” who admits that she pushes herself to plunge into the experiences that frighten her most.  

“The more uncomfortable you are, the more you grow,” she says. “The less comfortable I am, the better I get. Persistence is the most important thing. I may get up and say, ‘I feel terrible,’ but you have to get up and hit your brain against the wall, and hopefully something happens. Sometimes that hope is enough.”

Posted spring 2012