Megan Scott

Equinox Staff


Percussion instruments are second in the evolution of music only to the voice. As early as the tenth century, humans created rhythm using their hands and instruments they made with surrounding materials. Since then, the instruments have gotten more complex and varied in order to complement each piece accordingly.

On Nov. 1, 2012 at 7:30 p.m., Keene State College’s Concert Band will celebrate the percussion instrument, in the Redfern Arts Center, by showcasing talented percussionists in a concert that’s all about percussion.

The percussion concert, titled “More Cowbell is a Status Cymbal,” will feature a variety of songs that will star percussion instruments by artists such as Steve Reich, John Mackey, Robert W. Smith, Scott McCallister, Minoru Miki, and David R. Gillingham. Miki’s “Z Conversion” and Gillingham’s “Concertino for Four Percussion” are the pieces most focused on the percussion ensemble.

Of Miki’s piece, Professor of Music Christopher Swist said, “I always wanted to bring the work to KSC. It is a delightful, exciting, and fun piece inspired by traditional Japanese drumming.” Swist explained that this is not the first time they have done a concert like this; in 2005 the band performed a similar concert.

While most believe that percussion is just about banging on different drums to make noise, there are also the intricacy and time that goes into learning, practicing and performing individually or with a band.

Associate Professor of Music, James Chesebrough, said that many instruments create a sound using breath, which means the sound is coming from within the player.

Percussion, on the other hand, remains outside the body. The players are then handed the responsibility of watching their instrument, their music, and their conductor while trying to keep in rhythm with the band. These players are students Sean St. Germain, Travis Corcoran, Joshua Brennan, and Aaron Taub, who will present their percussion skills with fervent excitement.

Sean St. Germain has played percussion since he was 10 years old. At the time, the biggest reason he joined band was to avoid being in chorus, the only other option, he said.

St. Germain practices his percussion pieces for more than two hours on his own, he said. But he is also a non-music major.

He said he balances his own major work with rehearsal and practice times for the concert band. St. Germain is also in several bands on his own time. While he enjoys playing with the concert band, his favorite songs to play are his own band’s songs.

Like St. Germain, music has been a part of Aaron Taub’s life since he was young. Taub has actively participated in band since the fifth grade. Since then, he has honed his percussion skills daily, he said.

Taub explained that the most difficult part about playing percussion with a band is focusing and making sure that everyone sounds like they are playing together; he enjoys it profusely. His inspiration lies within his father’s guitar skills, he said.

Because he came from a musical family, it was almost expected that he would join band. But loving percussion made the choice easy, Taub explained. The most interesting part of playing, for Taub, is the ability to conquer new pieces.

“I love when you’re working on a really hard piece of music and you work on it for a long time and then you finally play it right. It’s the most satisfying feeling,” he said.

However, St. Germain and Taub are not the only two percussionists who have been exposed to music since a young age. Travis Corcoran has also been a long-time percussion player. Corcoran joined band in fourth grade and has been in love with the instrument ever since, he said. Besides class time, he spends a significant amount of time practicing on his own.

He said the hardest part about playing music is making sure that the percussion pieces blend with the rest of the band, watching for rhythmic issues and pitches, and not having the ability to play melody.

He said that while he enjoys a variety of songs, many of them are considered to be classical.

In addition for preparing for the percussion concert, Corcoran is also preparing for his Senior Recital on Nov. 18.

Like Corcoran, Josh Brennan is preparing for the percussion concert along with his student recital on Nov. 14. Brennan, a talented marimba player, has played percussion since the fifth grade, but it wasn’t until he reached high school that it was suggested that he start to play the marimba.

“The hardest thing about learning new pieces is to not give up.  When I learn a new difficult piece I always try to remember that somebody else has done it before, and that makes me not quit,” Brennan said.

While what sets the concert apart from others is the mere focus on the Percussion Ensemble [the most since the similar concert in 2005], what really makes it unique is the collaboration of this very talented group of players.

Swist and Chesebrough both agreed and said that there will be nothing holding this group back from performing their very best. Join Keene State College’s Concert Band for a night full of percussion.



Megan Scott can be contacted at




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