Allie Ross is a percussionist and educator from Salem, New Hampshire, current studying music education at Ithaca College. While studying with Conrad Alexander and Mike Truesdell at IC, she’s had the opportunity to perform with the college’s wind ensemble and orchestra, and she teaches music classes to students ages K–2. Allie often spends time playing double-second steel pans, performing as a soloist, serving as a featured performer with IC’s chorus, and as an ensemble member with the college and digitally with the Inside Out Steelband.
R!S: How do you find new pieces that you are interested in playing? What factors do you consider when seeking out and/or choosing new solo or chamber repertoire?
Allie Ross: I spend hours going through recordings of pieces that I find online. I start listening, and I keep a list of pieces I find intriguing. I’ve also attended PASIC since 2019, and many solos and books of repertoire have come from experiencing them there live. I love pieces for percussion and audio, as they make for a new and compelling listening experience, as well as pieces where I can work on my musicality, a skill that I am constantly trying to master.
R!S: What do you find changes about the way you play a piece as you “live” with it for a while? Do you typically perform a piece once or multiple times?
AR: When I first learn a piece, it is 100% about mechanics, which I attribute to my marching percussion background. I learn the notes and how it feels to move through each section, and then I go back and refine. In my freshman year of college, I would spend entire lessons with Dr. Truesdell experimenting with different phrasings, and I enjoyed getting to think about different ways that the piece could be perceived by an audience. Many performances I have done thus far have come in the forms of masterclasses and my studio class, but I am looking forward to doing my first recital next month!
R!S: How involved and in what ways is your instructor involved in your repertoire selection?
AR: My current instructor, Conrad Alexander, has what seems like a never-ending collection of music, as well as a plethora of knowledge on various pieces. I can mention that I’m looking for a new vibraphone piece to play, and I’ll be emailed a document filled with vibraphone pieces for me to explore. It works very well in tandem with how I tend to explore pieces, and I am forever grateful for him helping to expand my library!
R!S: Do you finish every piece that you start to learn? If not, why not? If a piece seems like a poor fit or you struggle unusually with a piece, how do you proceed? Do you “bail” on the selection, or what changes do you make to allow yourself to complete it?
AR: I often view pieces as learning experiences or exercises, and because of this, I don’t always complete a piece. Some pieces are selected solely because I want the chance to work on some aspect of my technique, while others are chosen with the end goal of a performance in mind. If I struggle with a piece, I might shelve it and find my way back to it after playing some pieces that help me work up to that ability level.
R!S: What is one particularly favorite piece of repertoire you’ve performed and why?
AR: “Stop Speaking” by Andy Akiho is an all-time favorite piece for me. I first heard this piece performed at a summer camp in 2017 and learned it during my online semester in Fall 2020. Percussion with audio is such an intriguing world to me, and with this piece I am always finding new ways to explore the timing with the track, as well as the musical aspects from the different textures on the snare drum.