Published on Sunday, 25 April 2010 15:59
Written by Bruce Gale
The standard of performance expected of secondary school percussionists has risen dramatically in recent years. In many ways, this has been a reflection of a more general trend in the world of music as late twentieth century composers began writing more imaginatively for school bands. The result is that the young percussionist is now being presented with much more demanding scores. No longer merely a drummer, the percussionist has to have more than a passing familiarity with a wide variety of percussion instruments and be able to play them in a musically pleasing manner.
All this implies that it is no longer possible for the music director to fill the percussion section with students perceived to be lacking in musical ability. As Gary Cook points out, the musical demands on the percussionist are now equal to, if not in some ways greater than, the complexity of those encountered in the study of any musical instrument [Gary Cook, Teaching Percussion (Schirmer Books, New York, 1988].
Greater demands are now made on student percussionists then ever before.
Despite this, few percussionists in secondary school bands appear to develop any real musical skills. Having little or no melodic lines to consider, the band’s percussion section should excel at accurate counting. After all, the band often depends upon the percussion section when it comes to complex rhythms and meters. Unfortunately, this is exactly the area in which many secondary school percussionists are weak. One barrier to musical development is a tendency towards specialization, with snare drummers playing only snare drums, timpanists playing only timpani and so on.
To help provide real learning experiences for such players, every band should form its own percussion ensemble. Such ensembles provide motivation, introduce players to a wider variety of percussion instruments, and encourage the development of critical listening skills.