A discussion on percussion

Percussion ensemble performs at YSU Wind & Percussion Invitational. Photo by Samantha Smith / The Jambar

By Samantha Smith

Youngstown State University’s percussion ensemble is set for three more concerts this semester.

Glenn Schaft, director of percussion studies, explained the practices students go through to prepare for each event.

“We rehearse every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour and a half. We scheduled different pieces and blocks each week,” Schaft said. “We dedicate a certain amount of time to each piece and we rotate through the pieces.”

YSU’s percussion ensemble performs each music piece differently compared to a regular orchestra, Schaft said. 

“A lot of our pieces are different than like what you might see in a concert band or orchestra, where pretty much everyone in the orchestra plays every piece,” Schaft said. “We might be doing a sextet, and then the next piece is a trio. So not all the students are playing on every piece. So sometimes we use two rooms simultaneously, to make the gear usage more efficient and use our time better.”

Schaft said the ensemble will perform different genres like Argentinian, Afro Cuban and Japanese-inspired music for the concerts.

“This semester we’re playing quite a variety of music. We’re playing a piece that’s a marimba concerto,” Schaft said. “We’re playing some Argentinian tango music that was originally written for string quartet that we transcribed for marimba quartet. We’re playing kind of a music theater piece called ‘Music Tables.’”

Schaft said the ensemble transcribes music created for certain instruments to be played as a percussion piece.

“[It] wasn’t as difficult as you would think. If you look at a string quartet, we figured out what the range of a cello is and it just happens to match with our five octave marimba. So we can pretty much play the part exactly as it’s written for a cello. The trickiest part is the viola part, where it is written in a different clef. We have to transpose it up a step because the viola is written in an alto clef which none of us are used to reading,” Schaft said.

The ensemble currently has 13 to 14 students but can have up to 17 students at a time. Students can audition to be in the ensemble in the fall semester. Schaft said it is recommended the student is a percussion major, but any student is allowed to audition.

The final three concerts are on March 23 at the Butler Institute of American Art, April 12 at Ford Theater in Bliss Hall and April 29 at Norwin High School in Irwin, Pennsylvania. Each event is free and open to the public. For more information about the percussion ensemble, visit its webpage.