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2020 PAS Lifetime Achievement in Education Award Recipients

Oct 5, 2020, 01:15 AM by PAS
PAS is proud to announce the 2020 recipients of its Lifetime Achievement in Education Award: F. Michael Combs, Russell Hartenberger, and William Moersch.

"On behalf of the PAS Board of Directors, former and current students, colleagues, and the entire PAS Community, I want to congratulate Michael, Russell, and William. I think their body of work speaks for itself on why these educators were chosen for this award. Although we will not be together for PASIC 2020, I look forward to publicly recognizing each of them in person next year at PASIC 2021."
— Joshua Simonds, PAS Executive Director

PAS Lifetime Achievement in Education Award

The Percussive Arts Society Lifetime Achievement Award in Education was established in 2002 and recognizes the contributions of the most highly regarded leaders in percussion education.

2020 Recipient: F. Michael Combs


After receiving degrees from the Universities of Illinois and Missouri and further advanced studies, F. Michael Combs started his career in education as the first full-time percussion teacher at the University of Tennessee in the fall of 1968.  Even during his teaching career, Mike continued his eagerness to learn as exemplified by his summer study of African music in Ghana, West Africa, a summer study of Indian music at the Ali Akbar College of Indian music, and also by his private studies with symphony musicians that included Saul Goodman, Cloyd Duff and Al Payson. 

When Mike retired from the University of Tennessee as Professor of Percussion, he had brought the percussion program from a handful of students into a large, thriving program with national recognition.  His long list of accomplishments over almost four decades at the University of Tennessee includes taking the percussion ensemble on a performance tour of Russia and England as well as directing the ensemble in featured performances at several PAS international conferences. 

Mike was closely involved with the development of PAS in the very early days and attended some of the first PAS meetings.  He was the second editor of Percussive Notes and took that publication from the founding editor’s creation to a significantly new level. Around that same time, PAS asked Mike to take over editing the regular percussion column in The Instrumentalist magazine which was a very popular band and orchestra journal in those days. 

Mike created the first booklet of solo and ensemble literature for percussion and, when it was presented, it was actually possible to put almost all the percussion literature into one publication.  Such a publication quickly became out of date but it represented a major move forward in percussion literature.    

The first PAS meetings were held as part of the Midwest Band clinic or at an MENC conference. The very first attempt to organize a separate PAS conference was at the Eastman School of Music and, during that conference, Mike agreed to host the second PASIC in Knoxville.  The host of those early conferences handled all program details. But, a few years later, Mike hosted another PASIC in Knoxville at the former World’s Fair Site and at that event established committees and committee chairs for all areas of the conference which continue on today. He continued serving on PASIC planning committees for many years.

Mike created the special reading session at PAS conferences for new percussion ensemble literature and used the UT percussion ensemble to present samplings of new compositions.  That session has development into a major events at PASIC. 

Other teaching positions that Mike has held include serving for many summers on the faculty of the National Music Camp (Interlochen Arts Center) and the Michigan All-State program at Interlochen.  He served as percussion coach for the McDonald’s All-American Band and as adjunct at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Purdue University (summer), and other institutions.  Mike has given masterclasses locally, statewide and nationally including presentations at the MENC (now NAfME ) National Conference. He has published several percussion compositions and his book Percussion Manual was a leading text in college percussion methods courses.

Mike was selected as an Honorary Life Member of the East Tennessee Band and Orchestra Association and presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Tennessee Arts Academy. He is also recipient of the Phi Eta Sigma award for excellence in teaching and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Resolution of Commendation.  The Tennessee Music Education Association presented Mike with the Lifetime Service Award for having served for several years as their business manager and editor of the association’s publications. 

Mike’s leadership has included serving as a member of the PAS Board of Directors, President of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors, President of the University of Tennessee Faculty Senate, Executive Secretary/Treasurer of the Tennessee Music Education Association, and member of a number of PAS committees.

Mike is the Founding Board President of the Joy of Music Youth Music School that provides free music lessons for disadvantaged youth. He was selected as a member of Leadership Knoxville and is very active supporting several local non-profit arts organization in his community. Mike continues to provide percussion demonstrations to local school children and maintains his current position as Associate Timpanist with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

Of all Mike’s awards and accomplishments, what he is most proud of is his former students who have gone on to pursue their own noteworthy careers and who have achieved their own high levels of success. 

2020 Recipient: Russell Hartenberger

Russell Hartenberger

Russell Hartenberger is Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto where he taught for forty-two years. He has been a member of both the percussion group Nexus and Steve Reich and Musicians since 1971. He began his percussion studies in Oklahoma City at age 11 with Alan Abel. In 1966 he received his BMus degree from Curtis Institute where he studied with Fred D. Hinger. Upon graduation from Curtis, he joined the U. S. Air Force Band and toured throughout the U. S., Europe, and South America as timpanist and xylophone soloist. While in the Air Force Band, Russell received his MMus degree from Catholic University where he again studied with Alan Abel. He holds a PhD in World Music from Wesleyan University, specializing in the music of West Africa, North and South India, and Indonesia.

Russell has been a member of the Oklahoma City Symphony, percussionist at the Marlboro Music Festival, principal percussionist of the New Haven Symphony, timpanist with the Canadian Opera Company, and performs often with the Toronto Symphony. With Steve Reich and Musicians, he premiered over twenty of Reich’s compositions from 1971 through 2009. He recorded these works for ECM, DGG, and Nonesuch Records including the Grammy Award winning Music for 18 Musicians. With the Reich Ensemble, Russell toured throughout the world and performed with the New York Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Cologne Radio Orchestra, London Symphony, and Brooklyn Philharmonic.

As a member of Nexus, Russell has performed with leading orchestras in North America, Europe and Asia.  Along with members of Nexus, he created the soundtrack for the Academy Award-winning Full-Length Documentary, The Man Who Skied Down Everest. Nexus was given the Toronto Arts Award in 1989, Banff Centre for the Arts National Award in 1997, and was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1999.

Russell’s compositions include: The Invisible Proverb on the Juno-nominated recording, Drumtalker; Requiem for Percussion and Voices, with vocalists Lindsay Kesselman and Cory Knight, and TorQ Percussion; Arlington for snare drum solo and percussion; Magic Time written for Escape Ten; Red River for twelve percussionists; Telisi Odyssey, Cadence, and the percussion solo Raghavan. Among his other works are Persian Songs, arrangements of Persian classical music with Iranian vocalist Sepideh Raissadat, and Moondog Suite, arrangements of the music of Moondog, aka Louis T. Hardin.

His article, “Encounters with John Cage,” appeared in the Sept. 2012 issue of Percussive Notes and his essay, “Clapping Music: A Performer’s Perspective,” is in The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music (Ashgate 2013). He is editor of The Cambridge Companion to Percussion and author of Performance Practice in the Music of Steve Reich, both published by Cambridge University Press in 2016. He is co-editor, with Ryan McClelland, of The Cambridge Companion to Rhythm, published by Cambridge University Press in 2020. Russell was presented with the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts by the World Cultural Council at Leiden University, the Netherlands in November of 2017. In 2019 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Toronto Musicians’ Association.

2020 Recipient: William Moersch

William Moersch

William Moersch is Professor and Chair of Percussion at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Internationally renowned as a marimba virtuoso, chamber and symphonic percussionist, recording artist, and educator, he has appeared as soloist with orchestras and in recital throughout North and South America, Europe, the Far East, and Australia. A regularly featured artist at international percussion festivals, Mr. Moersch has performed on more than seventy-five recordings and is perhaps best known for commissioning much of the prominent modern repertoire for marimba, from composers including Irwin Bazelon, Richard Rodney Bennett, Martin Bresnick, Jacob Druckman, Eric Ewazen, David Lang, Paul Lansky, Libby Larsen, Steven Mackey, Akemi Naito, Roger Reynolds, Gunther Schuller, Joseph Schwantner, John Serry, Andrew Thomas, Alejandro Viñao, James Wood, and Charles Wuorinen. In addition, he was the first marimbist to receive a National Endowment for the Arts Solo Recitalist Fellowship and has also been honored by N.E.A. Recording and Consortium Commissioning grants.  

Prior to his appointment at the University of Illinois, Mr. Moersch was a free-lance musician in New York City for over two decades. He performed with the American Symphony, Metropolitan Opera, New Jersey Symphony, New York Chamber Symphony, New York City Opera, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, as a featured soloist in the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Broadway production of The Pirates of Penzance, and on numerous motion picture soundtracks. Mr. Moersch also created graduate degree programs in marimba performance at the Peabody Conservatory and Rutgers University and has presented master classes throughout the world. Currently, he is Principal Timpanist of Sinfonia da Camera and the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of New Music Marimba, a member of the Percussive Arts Society’s Board of Advisors, and an Artist Endorser for Pearl / Adams Percussion, SABIAN cymbals, Grover Pro Percussion, and Innovative Percussion mallets.

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