Percussion academy helps round out summer concert offerings

By Peter Jacobi


Summer Music, the annual series of concerts sponsored by Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, depends heavily on the presence during June and July of workshops, academies, clinics and camps that bring paying students and paid faculty together.

Sometimes, the students end up performing on programs that highlight the skills they’ve been honing while on campus. More often, the teachers, many of them eminent professionals, go beyond one-on-one teaching sessions and master classes by adding public performances to their responsibilities.

Indiana University | Courtesy photoJohn Tafoya will lead the Indiana University Percussion Academy and Workshop.

Indiana University | Courtesy photoJohn Tafoya will lead the Indiana University Percussion Academy and Workshop.

For examples, the Edward Auer Piano Workshop added four piano recitals to the concert schedule, including one by the distinguished veteran, Jerome Lowenthal; a Concerto Competition Winners’ Concert, with orchestra, also resulted from this annual workshop.

A Summer Saxophone Academy faculty recital featured local sax luminaries Otis Murphy and Tom Walsh. A Summer Music Clinic resulted in three events, highlighted by a finale concert featuring an orchestra, a Crimson Band, and a Cream Band, those three ensembles conducted by former Bloomington Symphony Orchestra artistic director Charles Latshaw and two Jacobs School wind conductors, Eric Smedley and Stephen Pratt.

The Steve Zegree Vocal Jazz Camp ended with a program prominently displaying its illustrious faculty.

The two major contributors, as has been the case for countless summers earlier, were Mimi Zweig’s Summer String Academy and Karen Taylor’s Summer Piano Academy. The concert riches that materialized from those extended gatherings for pre-college talents amounted to a significant bounty: a host of pleasure-giving chamber events (most prominently featuring the Netherlands-based Rubens Quartet) marking the String Academy weeks and a series of fine piano recitals (including by star alum Jonathan Biss and an exciting but not-well-enough-known Italian, Roberto Plano) shadowing the Piano Academy.

With but a week to go for the current Summer Music schedule, the spotlight shifts to another sponsor/producer, the Summer Percussion Academy and Workshop, created and run by the Jacobs School’s Percussion Department Chairman John Tafoya. This is the seventh such event, designed primarily for 17- and 18-year-olds at a crossroads: Should they go on with their music seriously during the college years just ahead or accept music as a hobby, a sidelight in their future?

“Our week with these young musicians, and we’ll have 25 this year, immerses them in lessons, master classes, discussions, concerts, and performance,” says Tafoya, whose credits include service as principal timpanist of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. “The workshop experience often proves as a flash point, a lightning rod that awakens their interest in pursuing a music career. It happened to my own son last summer. He began to practice like a maniac. The workshop got him all revved up. This year, he attended a Summer Band Clinic, taking another step toward music.”

Tafoya raves about the faculty he’s signed for the week, including his Jacobs colleagues: Kevin Bobo, a marimba specialist; Steve Houghton, focused on drums and jazz, and Michael Spiro, with his Latin music enthusiasms. Guest artists are Jeremy Branson, associate principal percussionist for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; Casey Cangelosi, composer and marimba soloist; Mark Latimer, an IU alum and principal percussionist in “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band; and Rich Redmond, an influential touring and recording drummer and percussionist. All will perform for us this coming week.

“They’re incredible musicians who want to share their talent and knowledge. We select them for their musicianship and for their teaching abilities,” says Tafoya. “Not all professionals can do both. These can. They can also contribute to another aspect of our curriculum, and that is to give the students some organizational skills, showing them how to be successful in the world of music, how to live as a pro. That’s terribly important.

“We cover a lot of territory,” Tafoya continues, “dealing with their individual percussion skills; adding instruction on accessory instruments such as a thunder sheet and chimes and tambourine; stressing listening and collaboration skills. And before the week ends, on Friday, each participant will perform as part of a group in a public concert, a great experience for them, an event that I think will provide them with memories.”

A week of percussion. Give these instruments a listen.


© Herald Times 2014


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