RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • The Beta Percussion International Institute by Natalie North and Zackary Truesdale

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Dec 16, 2020

    Beta Percussion

    A worldwide pandemic could not stop 40 percussionists and musicians from coming together to do what they love: playing percussion and continuing their pursuit for a deeper understanding of the art of music making.

    Taking place from July 12-25, 2020, the Beta Percussion International Institute is a two-week, intensive, bi-annual percussion workshop where high school through graduated doctoral students learn from the best teachers and performers in the field. This year’s seminar included faculty members Michael Udow, Mark Ford, Casey Cangelosi, Eriko Daimo (co-director), and Pius Cheung (co-director), with 30 students from Venezuela, Mexico, Poland, Finland, Estonia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United States gathering virtually at least twice a day for the entire two weeks. Events included masterclasses, group composition meetings, performance classes, one-on-one individual lessons that were open to the other participants at the decision of each person having the lesson, a tele-performed composition, and Pilates. While the seminar could not be held in person on the beautiful University of Oregon campus with spacious facilities, the workshops and classes were formatted in a way that allowed all the participants to continue to learn, explore, and study in a creative and inspiring way from their kitchens, foyers, dorm rooms, and in some cases practice facilities at their schools. 

    Kicking off on Sunday, July 12th with a welcome party, it was a fascinating experience to virtually come together in a seminar with up-and-coming percussionists with diverse musical interests and perspectives from around the world. It was especially inspiring as those of us from the United States saw our newly found friends tuning in to the lectures at midnight from Europe or 6:00 a.m. in Asia. The love of percussion knows no bounds. 

    At this welcome meeting, we also discussed our group composition project. Each faculty member guided one or two groups, each consisting of four to six participants. By the end of the seminar, each composition group presented performance videos of their wildly different compositions, complete with video editing and audio production. While one group ended up composing for a can of beans, tape, water glasses, marimba, and snare drum, another composed by splicing short videos of water themed sounds with the addition of a harpsichord. The possibilities were endless, and it was an amazing experience to witness the creativity of the participants. 

    Masterclasses with faculty members showcased performance of a wide variety of music ranging from classical transcriptions of piano works and traditional works by Bach to cutting edge contemporary music as well as some of the participants' own compositions. This facilitated a platform to not only work with the faculty, but also reach out to other members of the Beta community for feedback. In addition, students were able to take three lessons with three faculty members of their choice throughout the seminar. Participants were able to choose to open their lessons for observations or remain private. 

    Beta faculty members presented an in-depth discussion on a topic of their choosing. The diverse classes and clinics were rich with new and exciting points of view that caused us to reflect and think about the ways in which we approached our art. Udow presented a class on many topics including: developing your inner pulse, tutoring those (both young and old) who are new to music, the importance of stroke types, and performance optimization techniques. Cheung’s class on “Three Stages of Music Making” used Bach as the vehicle for discussing his personal methods and approaches to understanding music. This not only focused on the way in which Cheung draws out a graphic notation of the work for creative analysis, but also how he uses this graphic notation method for composition. Cangelosi opened with a performance of his composition, “Big Hair Air Guitar,” which was followed by an in-depth look at the intricacies of the piece as well as the compositional process; he also addressed performance optimization. Daimo’s masterclass afforded students the opportunity to follow along with scores of concertos performed by her while she discussed the many detailed nuances of performing as a soloist with different orchestras around the world. Ford’s masterclass focused on shaping one’s career and artistic voice in the music industry through imagination and vision. 

    Saturday, July 18th everyone came together via Zoom to play and record renowned composer Dai Fujikura’s “Longing from Afar,” a composition brilliantly designed to be tele-performed. Everyone signed in on Zoom with headphones, an additional recording device, and a variety of self-determined tonal instruments, idiophones, and membranophones. After we all pinned his video, Mr. Fujikura conducted us through his piece from the United Kingdom where he teaches composition at the Royal College of Music. The experience was both profound and exciting. Given this global pandemic, it was an unforgettable experience to come together and finally get to perform with all of the participants in real-time after a four-month forced hiatus. 

    The first week concluded with a Pilates class, taught by Eugene gym owner and yoga instructor, Jessica Ingalls. The class was informative in establishing healthy practice, good posture, and the importance of regular exercise especially as a percussionist.

    In addition to the Beta faculty masterclasses, there were also two talks given by guest speakers who represented companies that provided tuition scholarships for three of the participants. The first was a talk given by Ron Samuels, Marimba One president and founder, in which the many facets of marimba and instrument making were discussed alongside the creation and development of his company. The second masterclass was given by guest speakers John Wittmann, Yamaha Director of Education and Artist Relations for the Band and Orchestral divisions of Yamaha, and Jalissa Gascho, Yamaha artist relations manager. This talk was unique with discussions of personal identity, establishing one’s own artistic profile, and branding. These topics were very intriguing for young musicians who are at the beginnings of their careers. 

    A unique feature of this year's Beta was “Synced/UnSynced” by Pius Cheung. According to Pius, “This pair of works was composed for Beta participants and faculty to play and record together as a group project. The question is, how do we play together while not being physically together? As the titles allude, “Synced” uses the obvious solution of playing with a click track. “UnSynced” is music that does not need to line up in a specific way. All players play from the same part with free instrumentation. Part of the creativity is in how the ensembles, or editor, choose to align the players.” Both pieces were written for free instrumentation. 

    The grand finale of the seminar was a virtual concert. It showcased premieres of the group composition projects, the unveiling of “Synced/UnSynced” and “Longing from Afar,” as well as participant performance videos during this time of celebration. Special thanks to the Beta team including Dr. Crystal Chu-Sharp, in charge of social media during the seminar, and participant David Lee, who edited all the videos for the concert. 

    The concert brought together the grace and energy of all 30 students who completed the two-week seminar, connecting people from 10 different countries onto one platform to share their ideas and what they had worked on tirelessly. These efforts culminated in an evening that was fluid and provocative while also illustrating the possibilities of what we can all achieve during these uncertain times when we all cannot necessarily be physically together. 

    Natalie North is a percussionist, pianist, harpsichordist, composer, arranger, researcher, and educator. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Music Theory at the University of Oregon. 

    Zackary Truesdale is a native of South Carolina where he completed his undergraduate studies at the University of South Carolina. Zack is currently pursuing his Master’s degree from New York University.

  • Happy 90th Birthday to Ian Turnbull

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Nov 09, 2020

    Ian TurnbullIan Turnbull, winner of the first PAS Outstanding Chapter President’s award in 1991 for his leadership in Ontario, Canada, turned 90 years “young” on November 6, 2020.

    Born in Worcester, England to parents of Scottish descent, Turnbull joined the British Army Band as a “Boy Entrant” at the age of 15, serving in Europe, the Far East, and the Caribbean until 1957. The following year, he emigrated to Canada where he joined the Band of Her Majesty’s Canadian Guards and attained the rank of Principal Percussionist. In 1963, Turnbull transferred to the Band of the Royal Canadian Regiment where he served for seven years before transferring to the (then) National Band of the Canadian Forces in 1970. After three decades of service, he retired from the military in 1976.

    While serving with the Band of the Royal Canadian Regiment (1963-1970), Turnbull was also the Principal Percussionist with the London (Ontario) Symphony Orchestra. He established the percussion department at the University of Western Ontario in 1964 and served on the Faculty of Music until 1970.

    Ian and Joan TurnbullFollowing his military retirement, Turnbull managed the Belle Air Music Company in London from 1977 until 1995. Upon his “second retirement,” Belle Air Music established the annual “Ian Turnbull Award” for percussionists at UWO. He was also named to the Mayor of London’s New Year’s Honors List in 1988 for promoting music in the region.

    Ian Turnbull became the founding president of the Ontario Chapter of the Percussive Arts Society in 1980. (Prior to that, there had been one chapter representing all of Canada; Ontario was the first province to establish its own chapter.) He organized the first OPAS Day of Percussion held at UWO in London in April 1981. A decade later, Turnbull presided over the Tenth Anniversary of the Ontario Chapter with a three day “Celebration of Drums” at UWO. He also served 14 years on the PAS Board of Directors (1986-1993 and 1996-2001). In 2001, Ian Turnbull received the “Outstanding PAS Service Award” at PASIC in Nashville, Tennessee for his significant contributions to the Society.

    Turnbull still resides in London, Ontario with his wife Joan and continues to enjoy life… and music!

  • First Virtual Days of Percussion presented by PAS Philippines Chapter by Zara Lachica

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Oct 15, 2020

    Zara Lachica

    Zara Lachica

    As we look forward to a new year, we normally plot ahead our schedules, travels, performances, and everything that has to do with going outside the comforts of our home. We aspire to become better in terms of percussion playing and teaching. To that end, the Philippines’ first Day of Percussion was scheduled for September 2020, but who would have thought that we’d find ourselves locked up indoors, with nowhere to go or perform and with limited or no access to percussion instruments at all. No one was prepared for this, but as PAS members, our choice was to find ways to continue to inspire, educate, and support drummers and percussionists as best as we could. We are beyond grateful to Chris Hanning (PAS President) and Joshua Simonds (PAS Executive Director) for helping and allowing us to conduct the first virtual Days of Percussion. Special thanks also to Justin Ramirez, who has served us as our communication channel since our chapter was established in 2019.

    The first virtual Days of Percussion was streamed live via Zoom and Facebook for eight consecutive days (May 30 to June 6) and consisted of nine events that highlighted different percussion specialties. Its pilot episode, Deliberate Practice and Complementary Percussion by Zara Lachica, gave emphasis on how to dive into the details of the music by applying some practice strategies to standard orchestral excerpts and provided general playing tips/techniques for the tambourine and triangle. 

    Despite the limitations online, Ryan Peralta was able to facilitate a Virtual Drum Circle by encouraging the audience to prepare improvised instruments to be used for the live loops. Isaac De Alva III discussed the culture and performance practice of the drumline community through his topic, Rudimental Drumming: Drumline

    Versatility and thinking outside the box were some of the key points in Gian Vergel’s discussion on Percussion and Drum Set Playing in the Music Business. Tusa Montes shared about the applications of the Kulintang (gongs) in Maguindanao and fusion music through her topic, Exploration on the Philippine Kulintang. Mar Dizon prepared a tribute for his friend, by performing several compositions by Bob Aves on drum set. 

    A panel discussion titled Situation of Drummers During the Pandemic was hosted by Lexter Deo Santos and composed of university students and esteemed professional players as panelists. Refining our basics is perhaps one of the activities that can keep us busy these days, and Cyd Tumpalan’s topic, Snare Drum Fundamentals, was able to inspire us to begin. The Days of Percussion closed with Timpani and Keyboard Mallets by Gip Chan, which provided the essentials on how to perform efficiently on timpani, marimba, and xylophone. 

    In addition to the nine events, we included a virtual products expo which aimed to promote several businesses owned and managed by our friends and colleagues, including Percussion Access, GDV Productions, and Marching Merch. A short video message from Henry Go of Innovative Percussion was featured as well.

    We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to our guests who took part in this event: Sol Bautista, Nimon Noer, JQ Quirino, Lester Esteban, Bo Razon, Junjun Regalado, Joseph Concepcion, Janno Clarito, Alexis Constantino (ABSCBN Philharmonic Orchestra), Ederic Sampedro (Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra), Allan Abdullah, Roby Calderon (Manila Symphony Orchestra), Karmi Santiago, Mark Hipona (Manila Philharmonic Orchestra), Gabriel Zagala, and Gin Garcia.

    We also recognize and thank those who showed their support by sending their video messages and/or performances: Todd Sucherman, Yun-Ju Pan, Wannapha Yannavut (Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra), Tanmay Mukherjee, Dave Stark (PAS Education Committee), Cara Wildman, and Mark Stone (Chair of PAS World Percussion Committee).

    Above all, our sincere appreciation goes out to Arthur Lipner and John Wooton, who spent their time with us live (Philippine Time).

    With five individuals involved with the logistics and production, delivering an eight-day online program was never easy. We embraced the “new normal” with regards to the use of technology platforms and applications. We adapted to whatever was feasible for everyone—the speakers, guests and broadcast team (Ryan Peralta, Lexter Deo Santos and officers)—to make collaboration work. Our efforts paid off in the positive feedback that we received from the viewers. Ultimately, the impact of this virtual Days of Percussion is tantamount to the hope and joy that we need in this new era.

    The PAS Philippines Chapter Officers are Saturnino Tiamson Jr. (President), Isaac De Alva III (Vice President), and Zara Lachica (Secretary/Treasurer).

    Zara Lachica obtained her Master of Arts in Music Performance degree from the University of Santo Tomas Graduate School. In 2018, she performed in the Asia Orchestra Week held in Tokyo, Japan, and she has conducted percussion seminars/workshops in several prestigious schools in the Philippines. Zara is a guest musician of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and was the percussionist in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical staged in Manila. Zara attended the Korean Orchestral Percussion Symposium held in Seoul, South Korea. She is one of the speakers in the first virtual Days of Percussion presented by the Philippines PAS Chapter. At present, she is a faculty member at the Everest Academy Manila.

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