RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • Five Question Friday: Jillian Baxter (Albany State University)

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jul 31, 2020

    Jillian BaxterDr. Jillian Baxter serves as Assistant Professor of Music at Albany State University and is a native of North Augusta, S.C. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University, her master’s degree from Belmont University in Nashville Tenn., and her doctorate from the University of Georgia under the direction of Timothy K. Adams. Dr. Baxter began her career as a classical pianist and later added the study of jazz and world music in piano and percussion. In addition to teaching at the college level, she has taught middle school and high school general music, theory, and choir. In her spare time, Dr. Baxter writes motivational literature, percussion music and articles, and enjoys playing freelance and as a church musician.

    Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what career could you see yourself having pursued?

    Jillian Baxter: I would be a writer, because I love to write short stories and have always thought about writing a book or compilation. I have collections of stories I have written over the years, and maybe one day I will see about getting some of those in circulation. 

    R!S: What's one thing in your institution or city/town (other than your school of music or music department) that you are proud to tell people about?

    JB: At Albany State University, we have a wonderful camaraderie among our divisions and faculty. Within out Visual and Performing Arts Department we actively work together to collaborate and do interdisciplinary events with music, visual arts, theatre, and dance all the time. We like to have students be well-rounded in the arts! 

    R!S: What's one thing about you that your students would unanimously proclaim?

    JB: Most of my students would proclaim that I am very approachable. I like to create an environment where all students feel comfortable asking me questions and can truly take charge of their own education. My office door is always open, and most students stop by multiple times a week just to say hi or update me on how they are progressing. They also love to come in and play small snippets of what they are working on before their lesson day.

    R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?

    JB: At first my favorite percussion instrument was the marimba, probably because it was so similar to the piano, which I also played. Over the years I have rotated through being centered on snare drum, then multi percussion, then timpani and vibraphone. It has changed so much because I am so fascinated with the multiple timbres that can be achieved by each family of instruments. If I had to choose my favorite right now... I am on a timpani and vibraphone rotation. I choose these because so much literature has come out in the last 5–10 years expounding on the sounds that can be enhanced other than with traditional playing (e.g., rim/center/normal, playing with recordings, pitch bends, and other instrument combinations with the instrument).

    R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?

    JB: I grew up in North Augusta, South Carolina. My first instrument was the piano, which I began at age five. My mom's best friend told her it looked like I had piano hands, and she wanted to teach piano to me. I fell in love with the instrument. In middle school, I actually wanted to play the clarinet with my best friend, but my band director told me I needed to play percussion instead. I was disappointed until I got my first percussion kit. After that I was a percussionist for life!

  • 2020 LHS Summer Marimba Seminar and a Look Back: An Interview with Leigh Howard Stevens by Yurika Kimura

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jul 29, 2020

    Every summer, marimba virtuoso and PAS Hall of Fame inductee Leigh Howard Stevens hosts the LHS Summer Marimba Seminar, a two-week intensive course at the Jersey Shore for college students and professionals to study Stevens Technique and Method of Movement. The LHS Seminar is a great opportunity for students to hone in on the details of their technique, as well as experience masterclasses and concerts from such guest artists as Michael Burritt, Bob Becker, Stefon Harris, and John Parks IV.

    This year, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the 41st edition of the LHS Seminar was held virtually through the use of videoconferencing software. Japanese marimba artist and PAS-Japan Chapter President Yurika Kimura recently interviewed Stevens about the virtual teaching experience.

    Yurika Kimura: What was your motivation to start the LHS Summer Marimba Seminar 41 years ago?

    Leigh Howard Stevens: Teaching in the summer months in the format of a “seminar” and “masterclass,” rather than as private lessons, wasn’t really my idea. More students would come to New York City for lessons in summer because of school vacation. Many stayed a mile or so away at the International House, which provided housing for graduate students and others coming to New York City for special studies. I had a one-bedroom apartment, and it often happened that a lesson would go long, so the next student would sit in full view of the marimba in the kitchen and listen and watch. One day, one of the students said, “Wow! I learned almost as much listening to the lesson before mine as I did in mine!”

    Everybody wanted to meet the other players and hear what they were working on, so we started meeting as a group every couple of weeks, rather than exclusively in private lessons. I gradually began to realize that I could teach three or 12 students the same material—whether it was about technique or musicianship—in just about the same time as one. It just didn’t make economic sense for me, or for the students, to continue the “old fashioned” way. I still teach some one-on-one lessons, but it is now the exception, rather than the norm.

    YK: What differences do you see in comparing students of the early seminars and very recent ones?

    LHS: In the early days, most students didn’t have a teacher back home to show them the basics of Stevens technique. Rarely did any of the students have a functioning one-handed roll. They had “heard about this guy who had a new way to play the marimba and could roll with one hand,” but they hadn’t experienced it with their own eyes or ears. It’s important to understand that my first five years of teaching were before the publication of Method of Movement! Now the book is available in Japanese, Spanish, French, Italian, and German.

    I am going to probably insult more than one person by including or excluding them, but Paul Smadbeck, Chris Lamb, Robert van Sice, and Mark Ford were among that early group who studied with me. Of course, those guys had talented hands and could probably do a lot of things before they took their first lesson with me. Students who come to me now usually have a much more advanced technical command of the instrument, but the great musicians are just as rare today as in the “old days.”

    YKHow was the experience of teaching online this year?

    LHS: This year, because of the coronavirus, I was forced to teach via Zoom videoconferencing software online. There were some obvious negatives to this format. Students didn’t get to hang out together, make new friends, or go to the beach. There were no concerts, which was probably the single most negative part of a virtual seminar. Giving the students an opportunity to hear world-class musicians in a good acoustic space—like you and Bob Becker have done several times at the seminar!—is a life-changing experience for some.

    However, I was really surprised at some of the positive aspects of teaching this new way. First of all, it was much less expensive for the students, since there wasn’t any airfare or hotel expense. Plus, because I wasn’t sure how effective it was going to be, my tuition was lower. In my opinion there were aspects that were actually better than an in-person seminar. When I am teaching “live” I have to walk around the room to show a close-up of a hand position or other detail to every student individually. I can’t be sure what the student is looking at or what they are seeing. If there are 20 students, that process can take several minutes. In this new virtual format, I can see what the students are seeing in my 27-inch monitor, so I can position my hand in front of the camera exactly the way I want, so I am sure they see what I see. Ten seconds is all you need.

    Students pre-recorded pieces for the masterclasses, since I was advised that having the students play in real time over the internet was asking for technical trouble and bandwidth dropout. I liked this aspect of virtual teaching very much. First of all, I could review the performance before the online meeting so I could plan what I wanted to talk about. During the class, I could back up the performance over and over with my mouse saying, “listen here” or “watch here.” “Do you see how the mallets did that? Do you hear that?” Repetition of small sections of the video was a powerful teaching tool that I didn’t appreciate before I actually experienced it. On balance, the virtual 41st season of the LHS Marimba Seminar was much more effective than I would have predicted.

    The LHS Summer Marimba Seminar is hosted and sponsored by Marimba Productions, Inc. For more information, email

  • Interlochen Adult Band Camp and Daniel Glass Denver Jazz Intensive

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jul 28, 2020

    When: August 11–14, 2020
    Where: Virtual attendance

    Join more than 70 adults from across the United States and around the globe for the 2020 Online Adult Band Camp and experience the joy of study and virtual performance of symphonic band repertoire in a challenging, supportive, fun, and friendly environment. This will be the 16th year of Interlochen's Adult Band Camp, which regularly draws amateur and professional players from across the country. It will be led by longtime artistic director Tom Riccobono. The distinguished faculty will teach masterclasses on instrumental technique and the fundamental basics of your instrument, host lectures, and will prepare students for individual solo video recordings of Gustav Holst's “First Suite in E-flat for Military Band,” which will be transformed into a virtual performance and launched at a later date.

    Keith A. Aleo is the Instructor of Percussion at Interlochen Arts Academy, Director and Instructor of Orchestral Percussion at Interlochen Percussion Institute, and Adult Band Camp Percussion Faculty at Interlochen College of Creative Arts. Keith is also on the percussion faculty at Boston Conservatory and Director of Education and Orchestral Activities at the Avedis Zildjian Co.

    Supplies needed for your at-home recording session include a mobile device with video and sound recording capabilities, headphones or earbuds, and a computer or iPad to "watch the conductor" during your recording.

    Tuition: $300

    More Info:

    When: August 14–16, 19, 21–23
    Where: Mighty Fine Studios & Dazzle Jazz Club, Denver, Colorado

    With support from Rupp’s Drum in Denver, Colorado, the Daniel Glass Denver Jazz Intensive is a hybrid online/in-person event that will be presented over two weekends between August 14–23. This workshop not only provides an in-depth course in jazz technique, it also offers participants the chance to perform and record with a professional Denver rhythm section in a world-class recording studio. By spreading the events across a ten-day period, participants can really dig into the material and make measurable progress. To ensure maximum one-on-one interaction, the event is limited to just 12 participants.

    Workshops topics will include: Technique—Not just WHAT to play, but the mechanics of HOW to actually play it; Swing—drive any jazz band at a much deeper level; Comping Secrets—learn what (and what not) to play behind a soloist; Soloing—get clarity and focus in developing your ideas; and Recording—including a professionally produced video of your final performance.

    Tuition: $449

    More info:

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