Percussive Arts Society

2023 Texas Chapter Day of Percussion

story and photo by Lauren Vogel Weiss

The University of North Texas in Denton hosted the PAS Texas Chapter Day of Percussion on April 21 & 22, 2023. From clinics to concerts, there was a wide variety of events, including individual competitions and a percussion ensemble festival. Mark Ford, Coordinator of Percussion at UNT, helped to organize the event, along with Michael Huestis, Texas PAS Chapter President and percussion specialist at Prosper High School.

The first event on the Friday schedule was the Collegiate Individual Competition, adjudicated by Huestis and Dr. Thad Anderson, Associate Professor of Music at the University of Central Florida and PAS President-Elect. Fifteen students from three colleges around the state (Collin College, Southern Methodist University, and UNT) played solos on marimba, snare drum, and marching tenors. First place was awarded to Emma Kieselhorst (marimba); second place went to Raina Liao (marimba); and third place went to Jacob Fullinwider (snare drum), all three students at UNT.

At noon, a special concert was held at the Syndicate in the University Union: UNT alum Gregg Bissonette performed as a guest drumset soloist with the One O’Clock Lab Band, under the direction of Alan Baylock. Bissonette was featured on three tunes – “Coconut Champagne” by Denis DeBlasio, “Fireshaker” by Maynard Ferguson (arr. by Chris Braymen), and “Time Check” by Don Menza. Student drummer Colman Burks was featured on Neal Hefti’s “Whirly Bird.”

The High School Individual Competition, adjudicated by Dr. Dave Hall, Associate Professor of Percussion at UNT, and Dr. Michael Crawford, Lecturer in Music Education at UNT, was held on Friday afternoon. Eighteen students from seven high schools played solos on marching snare drum, marching tenors, and marimba. Sophie Depew from Coppell High School placed first for her marimba solo, and Savanna Westwick from Prosper High School won two awards: second place for her marimba solo and third place for her marching snare solo. Winners for both solo competitions received a Tama concert snare drum and stand. Other prizes were donated by Direct Sound Headphones, Innovative Percussion, and Sabian cymbals.

Also on Friday afternoon was a drumset clinic presented by Rich Redmond, another UNT alum, now a Nashville-based drummer who has performed with Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood. Redmond discussed the “money beats” as well as the importance of different styles and reading.

The Friday evening concert, held at Winspear Hall in the Performing Arts Center, included three compositions featuring four percussion soloists, accompanied by the UNT Wind Orchestra, under the direction of Andrew Trachsel. The concert opened with Ivan Trevino’s “Run to the Light,” featuring Dave Hall and Paul Rennick, both UNT faculty members, on marimbas and multi-drum setups. Next on the program was the American premiere of composer/soloist Mark Ford’s “Marimba Concerto for Wind Ensemble.” After the awards presentation for the Individuals Competitions, the concert concluded with guest artist Noriko Tsukagoshi in “Lauda Concertata for Marimba” by Akira Ifukube (transcribed for wind ensemble by Kaoru Wada).

Saturday morning began with the High School Percussion Ensemble Festival. Five ensembles from four high schools were critiqued by Anderson, Hall, and Kennan Wylie. The winning ensemble was one of the two from Prosper High School, under the direction of Huestis.

George Nickson, Principal Percussionist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, was the first clinician of the morning. His clinic, titled “Cross-training as a soloist and orchestral percussionist” demonstrated how to practice excerpts that also improved technique, such as octaves in Schuman’s Third Symphony and fourths in Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” Nickson also performed a Bach Cello Suite on marimba.

Acclaimed Japanese marimbist Noriko Tsukagoshi, who earned a Graduate Artist Certificate from UNT, gave a marimba clinic later that morning. in addition to the musical tips she offered, she also shared how her ballet training helped with her marimba movement.

After lunch, master percussionist Paoli Mejías gave a clinic on both salsa and Latin jazz. His session was followed by a drumset clinic by Gregg Bissonette, a Los Angeles-based session drummer, currently on tour with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band. The last clinic of the afternoon was devoted to marching percussion and featured Paul Rennick and Sandi Rennick, both members of the Santa Clara Vanguard musical staff.

The final concert, held Saturday evening in Winspear Hall, opened with the UNT Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of Dave Hall. They performed Jlin’s “Derivative” and “Obscure,” “Etched in Sand” by Nina Young, Andy Akiho’s “Pillar VII,” and “Liminality” by Dave Hall.

The second half of the concert featured the UNT Latin Jazz Band, under the direction of José M. Aponte, along with Mejías and Bissonette as guest artists. They performed Michael League’s arrangement of “Caravan” by Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington, Simeon Davis’s arrangement of “Star Eyes” by Gene de Paul and Don Raye, Scott Lavender’s “They Call Me Mister Mambo,” Agustín Alonso’s “Salmontology,” Josh Busby’s arrangement of “Suavena” by Francisco “Pirulo” Rosado, and Tyler J. Mire’s “Late Night Mambo,” adapted by Toshi Clinch.

Special thanks go to the artists’s sponsors: Direct Sound Headphones, Dixon Drums, DW Drums and Pedals, Dynasty, Evans Drumheads, Innovative Percussion, LP Music, Marimba One, Majestic, Meinl Percussion, Musicon Publications, Remo, Sabian, Tama/Bergerault, Vic Firth, Yamaha, and the UNT College of Music and Percussion.

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Paoli Mejías during his Latin percussion clinic. (L-R) Mark Ford, George Nickson, and Noriko Tsukagoshi and the attendees of the Saturday morning clinics.
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George Nickson playing snare drum during his orchestral percussion clinic Mark Ford presented Coppell High School student Sophie Depew with a Tama concert snare drum for winning the high school individuals competition with her marimba solo. (Photo by Ewelina Ford)
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Texas PAS Chapter President Michael Huestis (left) and PAS President-Elect Thad Anderson (right) with some of the Individuals winners: (L-R) Jacob Fullinwider, Raina Liao, Emma Kieselhorst, and Savanna Westwick. Gregg Bissonette (second from right), with current and former UNT percussion faculty members: (L-R) Quincy Davis, Ron Fink, Ed Soph, and Mark Ford. 
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Gregg Bissonette during his drumset clinic Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Ewelina Ford) Paul Rennick used a video demonstration during the marching percussion clinic. (Photo by Michael Huestis)
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Dave Hall (left) and Paul Rennick performing Ivan Trevino’s “Run to the Light.” Rich Redmond during his drumset clinic.
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Noriko Tsukagoshi performing “Lauda Concertata for Marimba” by Akira Ifukube (transcribed for wind ensemble by Kaoru Wada). Soloists from the Friday night concert: (L-R) Paul Rennick, Noriko Tsukagoshi, Mark Ford, and Dave Hall.
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Composer/soloist Mark Ford his “Marimba Concerto for Wind Ensemble.” Gregg Bissonette performing with the UNT One O’Clock Lab Band.

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