Meet the Musician: Timm Boatman

“Drumming was like a language to me, very well thought out and structured,” California Philharmonic percussionist Timm Boatman says of his early childhood exposure to the sound of marching bands. When he was 4 years old, in New Haven, Connecticut, the local Drum and Bugle Corps would practice their drills parading down the block in front of Timm’s house. Though his father was a mechanical engineer by trade, both Timm’s parents sang in Barber Shop Quartets and raised all 6 Boatman children on musical instruments. 

Timm tried out several, but rhythm spoke to him. He managed to buy a drum kit from a local pawn shop with the money he earned from his paper route. The Boatman family moved to Dallas, Texas when Timm was ready for college. He attended community college first and eventually transferred out west to the University of Southern California (USC), where he first met Maestro Victor Vener. Soon professional work took Timm Boatman away from his studies, and his career bloomed. He began working in nightclubs and casinos in Reno and playing in the pit at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for touring ballet and opera companies. Fortune would have it that Dr. Vener, being a professional French Hornist at the time, was playing in these orchestra pits as well, and the two have been musical colleagues ever since. 

Of all the instrumentalists in the orchestra, it is most likely that drummers experience the most eclectic careers regarding the repertoire they play. Back in the pre-record deal days of Oingo Boingo, when they were officially known as The Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman, who was still living with his folks, called Timm Boatman up to audition. As Timm could play both drum set and percussion, which was what the band was looking for, he landed the job and was an Oingo Boingo member from 1976 to 1978. He played on a few TV shows with Oingo and toured Japan, but left the group because he wanted to be more stationary for his 3-year-old daughter. True to his name, when his daughter was younger, Mr. Boatman had a sailboat. Being "stuck out on the ocean together” offered him as much quality time with her as possible. Choosing family over the life of a rambling man paid off; he now has 3 grandchildren and even a great-granddaughter.

Timm Boatman has performed with the American Ballet Theatre, Joffre Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, Royal Ballet of Covent Garden, Paris Opera Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Miami Ballet, New York City Opera, Berlin Opera, San Diego Opera, The Long Beach Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, both in live concerts and for recordings conducted by Zubin Mehta, Andre Previn, Michael Tilson Thomas and Leonard Bernstein. As well as having played on movie scores, Mr. Boatman found a niche performing on albums of children’s music. After Oingo Boingo, he continued to tour Japan performing music of Percy Faith and Henry Mancini.

“Victor is the only person in town who has the approach of speaking to the audience," he says of Maestro Victor Vener and the Cal Phil concerts. He appreciates how Victor pairs up opera and film and brings "power and life" to the concert experience.

Outreach is another important aspect of Timm Boatman’s career. He has led percussion workshops at McClaren Hall child protective facility where he helps kids discover a sense of unity through shaking or drumming out dance rhythms. “You play together to bond and create something bigger than any one individual,” he says. “The drums give back to you.” Furthering this therapeutic service to the community, he also leads drum circles through Santa Cecilia Arts and Learning Center in Eagle Rock, for all ages, from children to the elderly. He recalls a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s getting up to dance. “You don’t need words… music comes to them.” From Oingo Boingo to Disney Hall with the California Philharmonic, Timn Boatman uses music to communicate and transcend.