Music News & Reviews

Rhythm fans love a Day of Percussion

We've all seen or been that person who taps a pencil on a desk or drums the steering wheel in traffic.

"Rhythm and playing a drum is sort of a universal release for people ... therapy," University of Kentucky music professor James Campbell said. "It's in every facet of music: folk music, pop music, orchestral music."

For the seventh consecutive year, percussionists of all stripes, from hobbyists to professionals, gathered at UK's Singletary Center for the Arts for the 24th annual Kentucky Day of Percussion. The event, presented by the Percussive Arts Society, is designed to show a diversity of styles and techniques of percussion to everyone from professionals who want to sharpen their skills to the pencil-tapper.

"We heard that it was really exciting and a whole bunch of fun, that you just get to go around and mess around with instruments," said Eric Minion, 13, an eighth-grader at Christ the King School who was at the event with his friend Ryan Profitt, 14.

Explaining their love for percussion, Eric said, "It's so fast-paced, you're not trying to get the right note but rather get the right rhythm."

As much fun as it could be, participants also got to see that percussion involves hard work, like at a marching percussion session with Nick Angelis and the University of Cincinnati Drumline. Angelis emphasized the need for playing with a metronome, a mechanism that taps out the beat for the musicians to follow.

"Everyone's internal clock clicks at a different tempo," Angelis said in an interview after his session. "So, you have to channel everyone's pulse to the same tempo."

Among those keeping the beat in the audience were Rick Gratz, 51, and his 10-year-old son Daniel. They're both percussionists, and were lightly clapping the rhythms as the UC Drumline played like an ear-splitting metronome.

"He put the sticks in my hands as soon as I started to crawl," Daniel, a percussion major at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts, said of his dad.

Earlier in the morning, the boy, who is already on his second drum kit, enjoyed a marimba session presented by Scott Herring of the University of South Carolina.

Later Saturday, Day of Percussion participants were set to hear from professionals including drummer Lewis Nash, who had a gig Saturday night with the Blue Note 7's concert at the Singletary Center concert hall.

Among the participants looking forward to that session were members of the All Collegiate Percussion Ensemble, an all-star percussion group selected from across the commonwealth.

"You learn how prepared you have to be," said Preston Neal of Western Kentucky University, who is in his second year as part of the select ensemble.

Striking his marimba in the Singletary Center recital hall, he marveled at the "amazing" sound quality.

Fellow WKU student Nelson Logan agreed that "it's great to be in a room where you could play a scale and it would sound awesome."

While the Day of Percussion gives students a chance to see UK's facilities, Campbell says recruiting students to his award-winning percussion program is not the point.

"That's why we have speakers from other colleges," Campbell says. "It is about promoting percussion."

Among those already sold were 16 members of the Muhlenberg Mustangs Marching Band.

Barry Duvall said his son, Ben, 16, was enjoying meeting professors from around the state and figuring out where he wanted to go to school.

"We'll come back every year," Duvall said. "There's nothing like it."

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