97 F

Davis, California

Friday, July 12, 2024

Percussion festival strikes a beat this weekend

If you’ve always wanted to learn a percussion instrument or brush up on your current skills, now’s your chance. Tonight, Saturday and Monday, the UC Davis Percussion Festival will commence, complete with workshops and concerts from both students and masters, featuring Brazilian beats, merry marimbas and more.

The UC Davis department of music began doing music festivals four years ago, with each year celebrating a different particular instrument. Last year was the cello festival, and this year will mark the first percussion festival to be held on campus with percussion lecturer and performer Chris Froh at the helm as the festival’s director.

“To be given free range, and to basically do whatever I’d like to do, has been ideal,” said Froh.

Today’s performance in Mondavi’s Grand Lobby will feature both the percussion students and the samba school, a newer and relatively unheard of addition to the course catalog. The class is open to all levels of experience and performs every quarter, which made participating in the percussion festival a natural flow of events, Froh said.

Senior music and mathematics double major Derek Kwan is performing in one of the student ensembles and said the festival brings opportunities to educate people on the often overlooked medium of music.

“Percussion has only had a supporting role in music all the way up until the 20th century,” Kwan said. “It would be great for non-percussionists to be able to come to the festival and understand that the marimba can play the lead role just as well as a violin can.”

Saturday and Monday’s schedule will include several faculty and guest performances such as that of Daniel Kennedy, a percussionist and professor of percussion at California State University, Sacramento; Stefon Harris, a world renowned vibraphonist; and Mayumi Hama, a marimba player flying in from Japan.

Froh said he hopes this diverse cast of performers will turn on audiences to percussion for the first time.

“It’s such a great opportunity for me to take out all the [musicians] in the world who I want people [to hear],” said Froh. “They really represent some of my very favorite musicians.”

Senior music and managerial economics double major Megan Shieh said that she is probably most excited to take part in Saturday’s “Day of Percussion,” in which master classes and clinics will be held all day. Because of their popularity and limited space, people must RSVP ahead of time with Phil Daley, events and publicity manager of the music department, to ensure a spot at the event.

Master classes, Shieh explained, are when individual students perform music they’ve prepared and receive critical feedback from the master teacher in front of an audience. Participants can benefit and learn from this interaction about things like capturing specific subtle nuances and tone in playing particular pieces.

“The more you’re exposed to [percussion performance], the better you can play and incorporate what you’ve learned, and [the opportunity] to be able to talk to masters on a one-to-one level is very exciting,” Shieh said.

In clinics, on the other hand, instructors usually talk about their careers, perform a piece and do exercises with the attendees. Clinics are designed for people of all levels, from curious onlookers to post-undergraduate students, Froh said.

“I hope the festival inspires more students to join the percussion department, as right now there’s only [approximately] 10 students,” Shieh said.

“Or if the festival inspires someone to finally give the percussionists our own room to practice in, that would be good too.”



Schedule of events


Today, Noon



Noon Concert: UC Davis Percussion Ensemble, featuring works by Christopher Rouse,

Lucas Ligeti, Terry Longshore, Brett Reid and the UC Davis

Samba School: traditional Brazilian-style drumming.



Today, 3 p.m.



Master Class/Clinic: Vibraphonist Stefon Harris,

Blue Note recording artist. Observers welcome.



Saturday, 11 a.m.


Day of Percussion: A day of workshops and clinics with guest percussionists.

Activities include drum set and Latin percussion clinics as well as a Marimba Master Class.

[To participate, please RSVP as soon as possible to Phil (pedaley@ucdavis.edu). $20 fee includes lunch. Please be sure to arrive early in order to register!]


Saturday, 8 p.m.


Showcase Concert, featuring director Chris Froh with guest artists

Michael Spiro, Mayumi Hama, Loren Mach, Daniel Kennedy and Michael McCurdy.

[Tickets: $18 adults, $9 students and children]


Monday, 8 p.m.


Construction Zone. Final festival concert, featuring director

Chris Froh, percussion, and Ellen Ruth Rose, viola; premiering new works by Linda Bouchard, Aaron Einbond and Laurie San Martin.

[Tickets: $18 adults, $9 students and children]


CHRISTINE VU can be reached at arts@californiaaggie.com.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here