The Sound of Drums: Percussion Ensemble performs Nov. 5

Photo courtesy of Glenn Schaft.

By Liam Bouquet

Photo courtesy of Glenn Schaft.
Photo courtesy of Glenn Schaft.

The rumble of drums and chiming of bells will be heard on Nov. 5 in Bliss Hall when the Youngstown State University Percussion Ensemble puts on their bi-annual concert in the Spotlight Theater at 8 p.m.

Composed of 16 student performers, the ensemble is a class that works toward one concert every semester. This semester, the group will play an eclectic grouping of music with an emphasis on traditional music found in Western and Southern Africa.

Glenn Schaft, director of the YSU percussion studies program, is joined with Elizabeth DeLamater, an adjunct instructor in the percussion studies program, in directing the ensemble.

“We are doing these three songs that are from Zimbabwe. They are called Shona songs. They are from traditional tunes from Zimbabwe that they play on African xylophones. … Then we are doing some Sabar drumming. That is from Ghana and the Senegal area of West Africa,” Schaft said. “Then we are also doing some music called Kpanlogo. That is West African drumming.”

He added that the group will also play a piece — “Mallet Quartet”— by famed composer Steve Reich that has been influenced by these styles.

“A lot of times, with these student concerts, we are trying to just pick good literature for them to play and give them a variety of things to do, but there is kind of a little bit of a theme to what we are doing. I am trying to show the students how some of these traditional musics are played and how contemporary composers take those inspirations and turn them into new music too,” Schaft said.

Students will also not simply be playing these unique pieces on Western instruments, but, in some cases, will play on the African percussion instruments the pieces were originally intended for.

“In some cases, like in some of the Kpanalogo and Sabar drumming, we are using actual drums from Africa, and then we are mixing them with some Western substitutes for those. In the case of the keyboards, we are using our own Western keyboards, but we are playing their music,” Schaft said.

The group will also perform a variety of other pieces outside of this African theme, including “Fanfare for Tambourines” by John Alfieri — a piece that will predictably feature tambourines in its performance — “Layers” by Lynn Glassock and “4/4 for Four” by Anthony Cirone.

Moriah Placer, a musical performance major and the president of Youngstown Percussion Collective, said that her group has been heavily involved in spreading the word through both handing out fliers and even through other percussion performances around the university.

John Vitullo, a member of the percussion studies program and a performer in the concert, said YPC works to further the percussion program here at YSU.

“We are part of a student organization called the YPC, the Youngstown Percussion Collective, which does fundraising and percussion related philanthropy. We have a touring group that goes out. … We also help the studio go to things like PASICH, which is this huge percussion convention,” he said. “YPC also records CDs of percussion music. We have two CDs out; the first one is Darkwood. … The other is “Forms of Things Unknown”, which is all original music written by jazz faculty Dave Morgan. He wrote a huge percussion piece for the studio; we performed that and recorded it.”

Vitullo expressed excitement for the concert.

“I think the concert is going to be great. We have been working really hard on it. We have been really trying to build up enthusiasm for it because sometimes attendance at our concert isn’t the best, so we are really trying to get people excited about it,” Vitullo said.

Placer agreed, adding on that preparations for the concert began at the beginning of the semester.

“At this point, for the last couple of weeks, we have just been focusing on really putting on a good performance,” Placer said. “Now we are just trying to make sure we put on a badass show.”