Chair of Percussion Studies
School of Music - University of Minnesota
Since the year 2011, we have had a very special connection with Prof. Fernando Meza, Director of Percussion Studies at the University of Minnesota School of Music, and one of the most recognized Costa Rican musicians at the international level.
His vast knowledge about the concert marimba has helped us to program objectives which, for us as builders, have been invaluable and have focused our work from the perspective of the performing artist. Thanks to this close collaboration, we are very proud of the fact that we can provide the international artistic environment of the marimba, with instruments worthy of its performers and practitioners, as well as of any stage .
Fernando Meza: "For as long as I can remember prior to the year 2011, I had been in search of a marimba builder who knew as much about the traditional marimba as the concert one. In a world where there are so many wonderful concert artists, and also so many wonderful traditional marimba groups, I always thought that someone out there had to know about both worlds equally as well from the building perspective. Sadly however, in my long search, I never came across anyone who fit that bill.
That is of course, until I met Oscar Biolley Quesada (one half of the team of OBiolley Instrumentos Musicales along with his father, Oscar Javier Biolley Santamaría). When I met Oscar, I had a very distinct feeling that he could very well be “The One” (my nickname for him is “Neo”, as in the main character of the movie “The Matrix,” since he is the only person I know who truly understands both worlds of the marimba). There is not a single builder in the world with Oscar’s knowledge for both camps, especially after inheriting the most refined points and secrets of the subtle art of harmonic tuning from the master himself, Mr. Gilberto Serna. With Oscar’s keen ear, love of the marimba, the wood-working passion he shares with his father, attention to detail, and his unending curiosity as an engineer, I knew that he could potentially be that one person I had always thought of, who could navigate both worlds of the marimba, and eventually build them in special ways, advancing both for the betterment of our field.
I am proud to have played a small part in arranging for Oscar’s process of learning about the concert marimba, and will be forever grateful that I decided to take the step I did when I met him, to offer for him to come to the USA and work with Mr. Serna. I know that there was something else at play that day much bigger than myself and I’m just glad I heeded the call to move forward and offer a hand to this tremendously talented young marimba builder. Now, a few years later, everyone in the world can be the beneficiary of an instrument built by the amazing team of craftsmen at OBiolley Instrumentos Musicales! The joy I have to claim not only that “I knew them when,” but that as a citizen of Costa Rica I can see these amazing instruments coming from my own country, and that the entire Biolley family is now a special part of my own family’s life is for me an immense treasure!
I wish them all the very best, in what I know will be an amazing journey of making the world a better place through their beautiful instruments! I already have one at the University of Minnesota and I know I will be seeing many more around the world in the years to come!"
Since his trip to the USA in 2011, Oscar and his father have gone on to create some absolutely gorgeous marimbas, made with 100% Costa Rican woods, and the craftsmanship of these instruments is not only second-to-none, they are a reference point in terms of their beauty and construction. Their keyboards offer an alternative to Honduras Rosewood, a wood that is unfortunately undergoing difficulties in the marketplace due to over-exploitation and a black market that seems insatiable, and that unfortunately continues to push upwards in cost.
After I asked Gilberto if he would be willing to teach Oscar his professional “secrets” he told me very sincerely that he had been asked that question many times in the past by many people and companies, and he had always refused to do it for a number of personal reasons. However, and to my surprise, he told me that because I had called him personally to tell him about Oscar, and because Oscar would be using this information for the benefit of building and tuning his instruments only, that he would be willing to do it. I was of course thrilled about Gilberto’s willingness to take this young man under his wing and teach him the fine details of acoustics and tuning, and immediately called Oscar at his home in Costa Rica on the phone to share with him my excitement. I still remember telling Oscar that an opportunity like that one presented itself only once in a lifetime and that he had two options: 1) To not take it, and allow life to continue on its way as it had to that point, or 2) To take it, and be ready for a change that could potentially alter his entire future. I am of course very glad that he chose option number 2!
Somehow, I had the feeling that Oscar could do amazing things if only he had the opportunity to come across the right people, and it was this gut-feeling that prompted me to ask Oscar, shortly after we met, to come to the USA and spend some time with Mr. Serna. I have known Gilberto Serna for a long time, and he is a very dear friend. He is in my mind, the ultimate authority on mallet percussion tuning and a gentleman in every way.
Both Honduras and Costa Rica are Central American countries that share some similar characteristics in weather, topography, soil, etc, and while the Costa Rican woods are not being offered as a substitute for Honduras Rosewood, they do provide a nice alternative to this wood. And on top of everything, their entire work is hand-made!