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PSU Percussion Studio hosts percussion ensemble concert

Many concerts have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and now many have been restored. One of the first concerts to be cancelled last year has been reinstated. 

On Monday, March 29, the PSU Percussion Studio out of the department of music hosted their first percussion ensemble concert since being forced to cancel last year. The concert was livestreamed from the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. The ensemble is under the direction of professor of music Jim Clanton and has members who are music majors, music minors, and non-minors alike. 

The concert opened with “Taiko” by Scott Harding, a piece inspired by the Japanese drumming style of the same name and included vocalizations from the performers mimicking the sound of traditional Japanese drummers. Then, the ensemble performed “Just Like That” by Josh Gottry, a piece that uses unison drumming and as well as extensive woodblock. 

After the first two pieces, the ensemble partook in free-form improvisation, or music without being written down first. 

“This next piece is going to use something we do a lot of here in the percussion studio at Pittsburg State and that is free-form improvisation,” Clanton said. “We’ve been doing this for several years now, both from the book and also with materials that Phil Kahn of NEXUS has written about and materials he has talked about in masterclasses… Pedagogically, it’s a listening exercise… We do the activity in our studio class or in our ensemble setting. The goal is to be listening. We perform a free-form improvisation. We record it, and we listen back to it and discuss it as a group… The activity is really useful for the students and I think they would agree… It really helps, especially as percussionists, since we’re exposed to new and different sounds a lot. It’s a way for students to develop their own voice, to experiment with instruments they normally wouldn’t experiment with, and to be able to try new things…” 

Clanton also said that the free-form improvisation allows students to avoid stress while performing. 

“I really like this exercise because it allows students to not have to worry about anything while playing,” Clanton said. “A lot of the time, in a university setting but also for any musician really, criticism is a constant thing you have to deal with as a performer, that you’re constantly aware of… This activity helps the performer get out of that because in this type of music there are no wrong notes, there are no wrong sounds.” 

The ensemble also performed a piece written by a Pittsburg State alumnus, Ryan Robinson who received a degree in music education in 2015. Robinson went on to earn a master’s degree in both percussion performance and music composition. 

“I saw the piece and heard it online and I just knew that we had to do it,” Clanton said. “It was actually a little more convenient, because of the (COVID-19) pandemic, to have Ryan come in over Zoom. He was able to share his thoughts about the piece with the students and help them figure out what he was thinking as he was writing it.” 

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