Drumming at Episcopal Collegiate.
The percussion classes at Episcopal Collegiate School are unique in their structure and composition. Rather than the group being a subset of the larger music program, the percussion ensembles are stand-alone courses focused on the development of young musicians. Beginning in sixth grade, students graduate through three levels of percussion, learning to read music and perform on all the instruments within the percussion family, including concert percussion, drum set, and steel drums. Through the various performing ensembles within the percussion program, our students perform in the community, educate audiences, and build the foundation for a life rich in the arts.
The student experience is enriched by an array of guest artists each year. Recent guests include NEXUS, Dr. Mike Vercelli, Dr. Norman Weinberg, Jonathan Singer, Neil Grover, Dr. Ryan Lewis, Lisa Rogers, Dr. Ryan Lewis, and Dr. Chris Hanning. Percussionists from the Arkansas Symphony are frequent guests, including Doug Demorrow and Dr. Rick Dimond
Students perform traditional and current repertoire for percussion ensemble, often focusing on music that has relevance in the lives of our students. Blake Tyson’s The Surface of the Sky (2017) focused on the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School, allowing students to perform the piece, tour the school and understand its history, and engage with the community. Each year our students travel to the Percussive Arts Society International Conference, attend percussion camps over the summer, perform with the Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra, perform for thousands of audience members, and give educational concerts at elementary and middle schools throughout central Arkansas. These opportunities allow our students to experience the joy of music, give back to the community, and instill a love of music in themselves that will pave the way for a lifetime of music-making.
The Episcopal steel band--the Steelcats--perform concerts and school residencies throughout Arkansas each year. They have performed multiple times on stage with the Arkansas Symphony for its Holiday Pops concerts, on the steps of the state Capitol for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and on KUAR for the Live at Laman public concert series. The group released their first CD, Live at Laman, in 2012, showcasing traditional calypso and soca tunes, along with familiar pop selections. Recent performances include engagements at Wildwood Center for the Arts, the ASO’s Beethoven and Blue Jeans, and an annual Christmas concert and sing-along at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
African Drumming and Dance
Hand drumming is the earliest focal point for our 6th grade percussionists. Students learn the basics of technique and touch, watching and listening, and performing within a group. We work closely with Dr. Mike Vercelli, Director of the World Music Performance Center at West Virginia University. Dr. Vercelli’s visit every two years is a highlight for the students, with focused study on the drumming and xylophone traditions of Ghana.
Ragtime Marimba Band
Beginning with intermediate percussion, students are introduced to Ragtime xylophone music of the 1920’s. In addition to performing music from the era, students have scored two silent films, Buster Keaton’s The Balloonatic (1923) and The Boat (1921), complete with sound effects. The band will be performing educational concerts of The Boat at local elementary schools throughout the Spring of 2019. Recent guest artists at Episcopal Collegiate to perform and work with the students include Bob Becker, Dr. Ryan Lewis, and Jon Singer.