EppsNet Archive: Percussion



My kid played his last high school concert last night. The last piece was a mambo number that showcased the percussion section. People got a chance to see their musicianship, that they’re not just kids who hit things because they can’t play a real instrument. There were four Northwood groups performing, followed by an orchestra from Mt. SAC. It was a long program and we decided to leave after the last high school group. In the parking lot, a bus driver standing next to his vehicle asked us in an Eastern European accent, “Is the concert over?” “No,” I said. “There’s one more group.” “The college!” he said. “Right.” “I brought them!” he said proudly. “You not going to listen to them? They good!” He was almost beside himself with disbelief. “Yeah, no,” I said, “but thanks for making us feel bad about ourselves.” Read more →

Rollo Takes a Walk


The Northwood Wind Ensemble went deep into the repertoire at last week’s Irvine Band Festival for some avant-garde pieces, including one called “Rollo Takes a Walk.” “It’s the quirkiest, gayest piece I’ve ever played,” my son said. “Rollo” didn’t have any good percussion parts, just oddball instrumentation with rimshots, slide whistles, etc. “And in measure 126,” he said, “everybody stops playing and says, ‘Rollo…takes…a walk.’” “Hmmmm.” “Except it’s not written into my part so I don’t say it . . . and I play one note on the chimes.” “What note is it?” “An F.” “I’m thinking the Rollo composer could follow up with an entire Rollo suite,” I said. “‘Rollo Takes a Shower,’ ‘Rollo Takes a Test,’ ‘Rollo Takes a Vacation,’ you see where I’m going with this?” “Stop being stupid,” he said. “Why is it stupid? Because you didn’t think of it?” Read more →

Drummer Boy


My son had a drum set part in the Northwood Holiday Concert last night . . . Drum set parts are a showcase for high school percussionists because usually they stand at the back of the orchestra, the audience can’t actually see the instruments, and nobody knows what they’re doing. He told me after the concert that was the worst he’d ever played that song but it sounded great to me, maybe because I’m a parent . . . Read more →

The Audition


My son’s a percussionist in the Northwood High Wind Ensemble this year. It’s an advanced ensemble . . . he’s a sophomore and most of the kids in there are juniors and seniors. They had auditions last week for section leader. I asked him leading up to the auditions if he’d been practicing his audition pieces because I never heard him practicing anything. “I practice at school,” he said, “but my chances aren’t very good. There are some older kids who are better than me.” This kid drives me nuts sometimes with his low-key approach to things. My approach to an audition would have been very different. I would have practiced like a madman and showed up ready to kick some ass, because I’ve got zero self-confidence and I over-compensate in certain types of situations. Anyway, the results are now in and the boy made section leader after all. I… Read more →

Is There a Drummer in the House?


We were at my son Casey’s 8th grade graduation this morning when one of his teachers came up to me, obviously revved up about something, and asked, “Did you hear what happened at the assembly yesterday?” From the breathless tone of his question, I assumed at the very least that someone had lost a limb. “No,” I said, “what happened?” He told me they had a performance by a street percussion group called Street Beat, and as part of the show, they asked for a couple of volunteers from the audience. Casey plays the drums, and a lot of kids were yelling and pointing at him to be selected, so he was. What they did with the volunteers was, the Street Beat guys would play something and the kids would try to match it. My kid was able to match everything perfectly, the other kid wasn’t, so they sent the… Read more →

Mallet Men


My son’s junior high school has two bands, Symphonic Band and Concert Band. You could think of them as the varsity and the JV. Membership in the Symphonic Band is by audition only. Because the boy changed instruments from saxophone to percussion last summer, after the Symphonic Band auditions, he has to play in the Concert Band this year. I don’t think he’s happy about it, but he’s taking lessons and practicing and trying to get better. This week, we had All-City Honor Band tryouts. All five percussionists from the Symphonic Band tried out, and four of them made it. My son also tried out and made it — as first chair. He’s the best junior high percussionist in Irvine. Don’t give up on your dreams, kids! I too played percussion in junior high and high school, where I was known far and wide as the Fast-Hand Mallet Man. So… Read more →

Different Drummers


In high school, I was in the school orchestra. There were no auditions; it was just a class you could sign up for, independent of whether or not you had any musical ability. And when a student with no musical ability signed up for the orchestra, what transpired was something like this: Director: What instrument do you play? Student: I don’t really play an instrument. Director: You’re in the percussion section. There were three or four of us in the percussion section who could actually read music and play it, so it was kind of depressing that it was mainly a backwater where musical illiterates were sent to bang on cowbells . . . I recollected my days as a high-school percussionist today when one of our tech leads — tech leads — pulled up some javadocs and announced that a method we were using was “depreciated.” Now if this… Read more →