UI Percussion Program’s Iowa Fall Percussion Concert to showcase diversity of percussion sound

This Sunday, the UI Percussion Program will feature a range of instruments and compositions to showcase the diversity of percussion sound during its annual Iowa Fall Percussion Concert.


Contributed photo of the University of Iowa Ensemble and Faculty Percussion concert contributed by Dan Moore.

Stella Shipman, Arts Reporters

The Voxman Music Building concert hall will soon echo with the beating of drums, humming of cymbals, and the sounds of everyday objects transforming into musical instruments. This year’s annual Iowa Percussion Fall Concert will take place on Oct. 30.

Under the guidance of University of Iowa Director of Percussion Dan Moore, 17 undergraduate and graduate students have prepared a range of musical compositions. Some will be performed in small groups, and others they will perform altogether.

Musical compositions are very important because they can lend attention to underrepresented artists and music from different ethnic groups.

“In my opinion, percussionists have the most open minds of all musicians because we have been playing fascinating music composed by diverse composers since the very beginning of the percussion ensemble artform,” Moore said.

The percussion instruments that students will play range from snare drums to shakers to plumbing pipes, an example of the fall concert’s versatility.

Each smaller percussionist group will focus on a different set of instruments. One group of six first-year percussionist students will play an array of more traditional drums and cymbals to a consistently steady beat, with their different rhythms occasionally diverging.

Another group of third-year undergraduate students and one sophomore undergraduate have assembled their own system of sound that allows them to move between higher-pitched and lower-pitched instruments easily and effectively.

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A trio of seniors have based their musical performance entirely on “found sound,” a term for any non-musical sound used in a piece of music. They have compiled ordinary items like soup cans, glass bottles, and kitchen pans as their instruments.

Three graduate students and one undergraduate senior will be performing with a mixture of traditional instruments and “found sound” that produce more ethereal music. Some of the more unusual items that they will be using as instruments include a steel bowl, a plastic bag, and a cardboard box.

Nick Miller, a member of this quartet and a third-year DMA student, also recognizes the importance of showcasing a variety of composers.

“This is a relatively new work that we’re performing, and we’re making sure that we’re trying to advance the field,” said Miller.

The smaller groups of percussionists have essentially been preparing for Sunday’s concert since the beginning of the fall semester. They have independently prepared for their showcases and refined their pieces by bouncing ideas off of each other and understanding where improvement is needed.

“Seeing the students come together to plan, program, rehearse, and finally perform this program is its own reward, and a reward for the audience as well,” Moore said.

Wil Voelker is one of the undergraduate seniors who will be performing pieces using “found sound.” One of the reasons why they love percussion is their childhood nostalgia for experimenting with sound.

“When I was a little kid, I would always get out all the pots and pans and Tupperware and play on it like I was learning to play a drum set,” said Voelker. “And I guess doing stuff like this kind of brings that sort of childhood magic back.”