Smithiger’s percussion students create impact

SIUE performed before a national audience of music educators in Nashville last Fall. Photo courtesy of Smithiger.

SIUE percussion students make an impact beyond the practice rooms and rehearsals, according to director Dan Smithiger.

Last fall, a percussion ensemble of his was among 10 chosen to perform before a larger venue—a national one—at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center as part of the National Association for Music Education in-Service Convention in Nashville, Tenn. Emily Truckenbrod, director of vocal studies, was featured soprano on a piece.

Smithiger said this was a great accomplishment for the music department and in particular for the students.

“National recognition is always a wonderful experience,” Smithiger said. “I believe this is encouraging for students and potential students to know that we perform at high levels here at SIUE.”

According to Smithiger, his students gain a total-percussion concept in the program and pace themselves well toward it.

“Students [at SIUE] are generally hard-working students and are quick to work on the details of things, but they also understand the big picture of what we’re doing as well,” Smithiger said.

Necessary traits of a good percussionist include work ethic, an open mind and versatility, according to Smithiger.

“Students are busy performing in all venues of the music department,” Smithiger said, “When they graduate from the program, they are well-versed in a variety of percussion areas.”

For instance, they gain experience performing as a soloist, within a chamber group, with the university orchestra, and as part of a marching band. They learn seven instruments which include the marimba, xylophone, snare drum, timpani and steel drums.

According to Smithiger, they also develop their skills under a variety of influences of music: from classical, to jazz or Brazilian, for instance.

Graduate percussion major Emilie Curry said she loves studying percussion because there is always something new and interesting to learn.

“Percussion is all about studying the beats and how rhythms work together, which is the foundation of music,” Curry said. “There are many instruments that fall under the category, from a five-octave marimba with four mallets to a four-inch triangle with a brass beater. Unlike just playing one instrument, with percussion, there are still worlds of different percussion instruments to learn out there. You never run out of new things to learn.”

Curry added that she appreciates how students motivate her in the program, and how their work ethic help make it successful.

“They spend many hours practicing, take constructive criticism well, and are always looking for more ways to be involved in the program,” Curry said. “That intrinsic motivation within each member of the SIUE percussion studio is what makes it successful and keeps it driving forward.”

Freshman percussion student, Matt Welser said he enjoys the program, especially, the steel band.

“It’s fun,” Welser said. “It’s upbeat music people can dance to and laid back.”

He added he likes learning percussion because you’re able to play so many different instruments.

“It never gets boring with a lot of diverse instruments you can play,” Welser said. “With percussion you have to keep up with it all.”

Smithiger said he is looking forward to international marimba player Nancy Zeltsman performing on campus during the 2015 spring concert, and SIUE hosting the 5th Annual Percussion Institute/Yamaha Sounds of Summer Event which will bring in roughly 150 students.

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