Summer Percussion Institute at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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I have just finished participating in an amazing four day percussion institute at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, right across the state line from St. Louis. According to the SIUE website, the campus is “situated on 2,660 acres of beautiful, forested woodland atop the bluffs overlooking the natural beauty of the Mississippi River’s rich bottom land.” The institute was organized by the instructor of percussion studies at the university, Professor Daniel Smithiger and about 20 students from grades 7-12 attended. Many of the percussion majors from the university assisted with the institute while several professional musicians led workshops, conducted ensembles and performed. It was the first time such an event was produced at SIUE and the outcome was remarkable. Dan Smithiger is the first full-time percussion instructor on the faculty at SIUE and has, in a short period of time, developed a department that is highly regarded and well organized. He has introduced many new elements to the campus including an active steel pan program. Dan is an excellent percussionist with a passion for music and a well disciplined focus to grow the department as quickly as possible. Besides Professor Smithiger’s involvement as organizer, clinician, conductor and performer, several others shared their expertise with the eager group of students. Jason Long, coordinator of Percussion, Webb City High School in Missouri gave several workshops and demonstrations in the fundamentals of rudimental drumming. Miles Vandiver, from the SIUE jazz faculty, presented workshops on drum set, and Eric Sooy owner of Black Swamp Percussion offered a workshop via Skype on tambourine and small percussion instruments. I gave several workshops dealing with percussion instruments and the science of sound. I rehearsed and conducted an ensemble in a performance of Gending Bali by my brother, Rick Kvistad. This is a moderately difficult work which was inspired by the gamelan music of Bali, Indonesia. It can be performed on tradition Balinese instruments or modern western percussion instruments (which we used). The group was able to give a high level performance with only 3 days to prepare. I also performed Marimba Phase with Dan Smithiger and Clapping Music with Jason Long, both works written by Steve Reich. Neither Dan nor Jason had played these pieces but played as though they had performed them for years. Marimba Phase requires much concentration in order to sustain the changes from pattern to pattern with a technique known as phasing where one player speeds up slightly to initially go from a unison pattern to a canon. The result is unexpected each time and the listener is treated to a psychoacoustic feast of sonic proportions. I have performed this work many times beginning in 1970s with the Blackearth Percussion Group. Dan did an excellent job playing it and keeping the pulse steady while I phased against his patterns. Clapping music has its own challenges, one of which is simply endurance. Jason’s strong sense of time and enviable energy made it easy to perform. The students performed larger ensemble pieces and solo works and did an excellent job on all accounts. The concert began with the students performing a work of Pauline Oliveros’ called “Greeting Meditation (1971-72)”. Click HERE to view a video of an excerpt of that performance. I had brought a large set of tubes tuned to the natural overtone series which were rung every time an audience member enters the performance area. Pauline’s intent is to help us grow our sonic awareness. Considering this was the first summer institute produced at SIUE and that everything had to be rehearsed and performed in just four days, the results were remarkable. The comradery was also remarkable as we have all gained many new friends as a result of the program. Thanks everyone for making this a fun and artistically vital week!

 

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