Rich Holly's Percussion Place

Assorted ramblings and occasional updates in the world of percussion.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

We've Come A LONG Way

The past few days at Northern Illinois University we've had the Africa-->West Trio here, presenting several clinics, giving some private lessons, and they performed one night with our Percussion Ensemble and the next night with our Latin Jazz Ensemble. The students and audiences were very happy to have them here. They're really nice guys (Ryan Korb, Jamie Ryan, Josh Ryan), and they're doing some interesting stuff compositionally with what they've learned from their studies in Africa and Cuba.

But what struck me the most was how far university percussion curricula has come in the past 30 years. Here at NIU we're blessed to own hundreds of instruments from countries and regions around the world. And yet it took being an audience member and seeing hundreds of these instruments up on stage at one time to realize how far we've come these past three decades. We really are lucky to be on a musical journey around the world as percussionists.

When I was first serious about percussion and taking private lessons, anyone in my position studied snare drum, timpani, and/or drum set. Only once in a while would you come across someone studying xylophone or vibes, and even less frequently marimba. In colleges at that time, everyone was studying marimba, but the literature was much more transcription based. And only 4-5 colleges or universities had any kind of world percussion program whatsoever.

Now, nearly every school is teaching world percussion to some extent, and we are seeing auditions by students who have studied hand drumming as high schoolers. I think it's really awesome that we are exposed to the music of the world, and we get to study it and play it. And audiences really enjoy it, too. How many people went to percussion concerts in the 1960's and 70's? Not nearly as many as go now, I am sure. And, back then they certainly didn't hoot and holler while applauding as they often do now!

What we do has really come a long way, and we are not just better for it, we are so blessed by it.