Not all drums make a bang

Caleb Sneath

Brandon Spencer. Photo by Caleb Sneath
Branson Spencer. Photo by Caleb Sneath

The audience of nearly 100 in Akin Auditorium Nov. 3 sat in an almost reverent silence as the percussionist balanced the flowerpot atop the drum.

“It was certainly unconventional. I’ve seen a lot of concerts, a lot of percussionists, but I’ve never seen flowerpots before, but I think it worked well in the piece,” Markell Johnson, sports and leisure studies sophomore said.

The percussionists used the flowerpots as improvised drums in a piece called “Dark Passenger” due to their unique sound qualities. Percussion pieces often include instruments and elements of improvisation to find specific sounds, which are necessary to the piece.

“The found instruments, that’s what we call instruments that you can find anywhere and use to make different sounds, are huge in percussion because we essentially look for the best sound that we can,” Gordon Hicken, assistant professor of music, said.

The percussion ensemble played “Dark Passenger” not only for the audience, but also as a submission for the Percussive Art Society International Convention’s Focus Day, with this year’s theme; pieces that are important percussion pieces from the 21st century.

The concert was a series of firsts for the ensemble. Dark Rider was played for the first time with a live projection of an overhead camera’s view of the drums.

“It was the first time I had ever worked with the livestream of the overhead view with the technology in that capacity in the camera,” Hicken said.

The concert was also the first time that the ensemble played the piece, “Aria,” before an audience.

“It’s [the piece] just a diamond in the rough, a hidden gem, of percussion instruments, and I was just glad we could bring it out and show some people,” Hicken said.

The concert carried a special meaning for Branson Spencer, music education senior, as it is his last performance with the ensemble before he graduates.

“Just to top it off for my last senior percussion ensemble, I’m happy as can be,” Spencer said.

Spencer said he plans to continue performing as well as teaching music elsewhere in times to come.


  1. Dark Passenger (2015)
  2. Gainsborough (1974) III
  3. Dark Full Ride (1974) Part I
  4. Aria (2002)
  5. Hoo-Daiko (2001)
  6. The Atmos Clock (2008)
  7. Katraterra (2005)