By Shawn Galvin
The 2001 concert season for the Trinity High School Percussion Ensemble, PA began with an acceptance letter from Bands of America for the National Percussion Festival in Indianapolis, Indiana. Although the students didn’t have first hand knowledge of the festival, they knew that a performance at a national percussion event would make this season special. I was excited about selecting a program for the event.
When programming for the Trinity High School Percussion Ensemble, I begin by fulfilling these educational goals: 1) include a standard of the percussion ensemble repertoire, 2) involve an instrument outside of the percussion family, and 3) premiere a new work for percussion ensemble. From within this framework I look for pieces that will be entertaining and diverse.
I decided on these four pieces: Square Corners by Dave Samuels, Ionisation by Edgar Varese, Concertino for Trumpet and Percussion Ensemble by Philip Parker, and a new arrangement of Night in Tunisia that I would write. This program allowed the students to explore a wide variety of styles, textures, and colors.
Rehearsals were intense but rewarding. The students reminded me of college music majors; they were always practicing. It was easy to be motivated by the thought of performing at the National Percussion Festival. After months of preparation and incredible growth experiences it was time for the festival.
Upon arriving in Indianapolis it was immediately obvious that this would be different than past festivals in which the students had participated. There were hundreds of their peers anxiously awaiting their performances and an exciting schedule of events for the days to come. Throughout the course of the festival the students experienced a leadership session with Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, concerts by the Robert Hohner Percussion Ensemble and the Honor Band of America, and a black tie awards banquet.
It was finally time to perform, and the true value of the festival was realized. The Trinity High School Percussion Ensemble would have the opportunity to perform for a panel of the best percussion educators in the country, including James Campbell, University of Kentucky; Michael Burritt, Northwestern University and Tim Genis, Bost on Symphony Orchestra. The students took the stage and were graciously received by an audience of percussion educators, band directors, parents, and students from around the country. Following the performance the students met with Michael Burritt for a clinic that allowed the students to receive immediate feedback on their performance. Burritt communicated with the students wonderfully and offered insightful commentary on their individual and ensemble performance. In addition to Burritt’s clinic the students also received written and taped comments from the other evaluators.
I believe the Bands of America National Percussion Festival to be the premiere event for the high school percussion ensemble. The festival helped my students become better musicians, more aware of concert band and percussion ensemble repertoire, more discerning audience members, and better leaders.
The Bands of America National Percussion Festival was an incredible experience for the students of the Trinity High School Percussion Ensemble and I would recommend it to all high school percussion ensembles.