Susannah Clabough is a percussionist and educator with wide and diverse performance experience. She has performed with Grammy-nominated Sandbox Percussion and as a masterclass soloist with Laurel Black. She performed on the premiere of Andy Harnsberger’s “Unbreakable” in October 2018 at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee and recently recorded Anthony di Bartolo’s “bounce!” for snare drum and electronics with GreenHaus Productions. Susannah received a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee, and a Masters of Music degree in percussion performance from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Memphis.
R!S: How do you find new pieces that you are interested in playing? What factors do you consider when seeking out and/or choosing new solo or chamber repertoire?
Susannah Clabough: I mainly find new literature on social media platforms, specifically Instagram. I think this is a growing platform for musicians, and my feed is mostly filled with percussion content. As a DMA student, I often choose repertoire with my recitals in mind. I am currently working on a program that features underrepresented composers. Showcasing these composers has always been important to me, and I’m excited for the opportunity to highlight their work.
R!S: What do you find changes about the way you play a piece as you “live” with it for a while? Do you typically perform a piece once or multiple times?
SC: Living with a piece for a while gives you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with what the composer was intending when they wrote the piece, more than just reading what’s on the page. It’s helpful to allow yourself the time to study before presenting it to an audience, which helps in molding yourself to the piece. At this point in my career, most of my repertoire has been performed live only on one occasion, but I am delving back into some of it to program again for a second time, and I’m excited to revisit with fresh eyes and a new mindset.
R!S: How involved and in what ways is your instructor involved in your repertoire selection?
SC: I have experienced varying degrees of involvement in the repertoire selection process from my instructors at each of the institutions I’ve attended. Dr. Bill Shaltis at the University of Memphis has been very supportive in helping me select repertoire, by giving specific suggestions and by also sending me a document of percussion compositions by BIPOC composers. Ultimately, it has been my choice to finalize the list, but he gave me great resources as a jumping-off point.
R!S: Do you finish every piece that you start to learn? If not, why not? If a piece seems like a poor fit or you struggle unusually with a piece, how do you proceed? Do you “bail” on the selection or what changes do you make to allow yourself to complete it?
SC: There have been pieces I worked on simply to develop a technique or to challenge my weaker skill sets. A lot of existing pieces are great for those things alone, and I don’t feel like those pieces need to necessarily find a place on your recital program. Typically, if any adjustments need to be made to a program list, it is due to available time in the learning process. Having this happen to me has shifted how and when I start to plan programs, which leads to planning my practice sessions accordingly.
R!S: What is one particularly favorite piece of repertoire you’ve performed and why?
SC: One of the most enjoyable pieces I have performed to date would be “Spine” by Michael Laurello. I chose this piece for my masters chamber recital, and was initially attracted to its undeniable energy. The more I worked on the piece, it helped develop my skills behind a large multi-percussion setup. Preparing it also helped strengthen friendships with my colleagues, and that truly helped me to know how to communicate best with others in a smaller ensemble. I am excited to perform this piece again on an upcoming recital with new colleagues!