MSU’s Percussion Among the Best

Percussion ensemble chosen to perform at prominent international convention

The Michigan State University Percussion Ensemble will perform at the world's largest percussion event in Indianapolis as one of three winners of a prestigious annual competition.

Under co-directors Gwen Burgett and Jon Weber, the 16-member student ensemble will play five pieces at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in mid-November. The ensemble was selected from entries in a blind competition sponsored by PASIC earlier this spring, and will share the winner's circle with Eastman School and Indiana University.

“Winning the competition definitely puts the spotlight on our program,” says Burgett, an associate professor of percussion who has led the MSU ensemble since 2005. “The convention is extremely high profile, with as many as 2,000 students, faculty, and artists in attendance.”

The ensemble's five performance selections include "Rain Tree" by Toru Takemitsu, “Dark Full Ride" by Julia Wolfe, and "Peaux from Pleiades” by Iannis Xenakis. The Claudia Calderón piece “Prismas” was arranged for the group by Jon Weber, MSU instructor of percussion and ensemble coach, while Chicago composer Roshanne Etezady penned “Magical Thinking” expressly for the ensemble.

“It's very special for the students to have a piece written just for them,” says Burgett, a professional acquaintance of Etezady. “They will be able to work with the composer and it's a tremendous experience to be part of the piece's premiere.”

To prepare for the event, the ensemble will do five practice performances around campus and the community, including run-out concerts at various area high schools.

“This whole honor is a great learning experience for our students,” says Burgett of the convention that features clinics, master classes, labs, workshops, panels, presentations and more than 120 concerts. “They're seeing how to prepare, how to handle pressure, and experiencing what it's like to perform in front of a lot of people.”

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