Percussion Ensemble performs variety of music for recital

Emily Simmons

Ricardo Forester, Jacob Partida, and Lee Ginnings playing on marimba. Photo by Emily Simmons
Ricardo Forester, Jacob Partida, and Lee Ginnings playing on marimba. Photo by Emily Simmons

Student musicians came together to perform intricate percussion selections that left an audience of almost 100 in awe. Gordon Hicken, assistant professor of music, directed the University Percussion Ensemble in a concert on Nov. 3. 

“The concert went very well. It was a difficult program. The students did a lot of hard work to put this together,” Hicken said.

Hicken, directing the ensemble of 12 for the second year, said the students performed well considering the amount of time they had to prepare for the concert.

Ensemble members performed “Aria,” a piece written for four marimbas, by Emma Lou Diemer.

“The ‘Aria’ is a beautiful piece that I found when looking for a marimba quartet,” Hicken said.

Members also performed “Dark Full Ride” on cymbals. Hicken said the piece, written by Julia Wolfe, was one of the more challenging works performed.

“It’s some high-level percussion music using just cymbals. The pulse is obscured and there’s no conductor so the students have to rely on communication with each other,” Hicken said.

“Hoo-Daiko,” written by Robert Damm, was one of the more intense pieces performed. The piece was inspired by Japanese Taiko drumming and requires five marching bass drums, a conga drum, a concert bass drum, and a suspended Chinese cymbal.

“I liked that the piece was loud and energetic. It was different from what I’ve played before because while we had parts where we were all together, we also had improvised solos. I haven’t played many pieces where I get to improvise,” Paul Comstock Jr., music education freshman, said.

Three ensemble members performed “The Atmos Clock.” The trio, written by Brian Nozny, required all three performers to play on one marimba at the same time.

“It was definitely an interesting challenge to maneuver around the other players and make sure we still stayed in time without disrupting the rhythm of each other. I liked how the piece came full circle by beginning and ending the same way with the main melody being passed among the players,” Jacob Partida, music performance senior, said.

Hicken said he wants to continue the improvement of the ensemble for members of all ages and skill levels, and has plans to involve local percussion students in the ensemble’s activities.

“We plan on touring some local high schools in December with members of the ensemble. In the spring we’re going to invite the high school students to come play with us on stage,” Hicken said.

For those unfamiliar with percussion music, Hicken said he wants people to know it’s not just hitting things, and that it’s not easy to achieve the right tones and sounds on the multiple instruments percussion students are required to learn. Hicken also said it is as fun as it looks.

The Percussion Ensemble will perform for another concert in the spring, and Hicken said he is looking forward to the ensemble’s progression during the school year.

“We’re going to keep on having fun while making great music,” Hicken said.

Percussion Ensemble Members

Michael Brenmark, Garry Boyd-Ward, Paul Comstock Jr., Daniel Duncan, Ricardo Forester, Lee Ginnings, Jacob Partida, Branson Spencer, Phillip Torres, Owen Veitenheimer, Alvin Waldon, and Timothy Yap

Concert Program

Dark Passenger (2015) – Andy Harnsberger

Gainsborough (1974) – Thomas Gauger

Dark Full Ride (2002) – Julia Wolfe

Aria (2002) – Emma Lou Diemer, arr. Nathan Daughtrey

Hoo-Daiko (2001) – Robert Damm

The Atmos Clock (2008) – Brian Nozny

Katraterra (2005) – Jim Casella