The Eastman School of Music is hosting the first Percussion Rochester festival, with world-renowned artists performing alongside local ensembles, on Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5. The event features the premieres of four works, master classes, and more than 15 free community events that celebrate the art of percussion across music genres.
Percussion Rochester was founded and is produced by Associate Professor of Percussion Bill Cahn, Professor of Percussion Michael Burritt, and Kathleen Holt, a music and arts supporter who has commissioned new works and premieres for, among others, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Antara Winds, and Madrigalia.
Among the works receiving their first performance during the festival is “Night Wind” by Naomi Skeya. The composer is the recipient of Percussion Rochester’s first John Beck Composition Prize, named for Eastman Professor Emeritus of Percussion and former principal percussionist and timpanist of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra John Beck. Brad Lubman will conduct Eastman’s Musica Nova for the work’s premiere on May 4, in Kilbourn Hall. That concert also features special guest artists Peter Erskine, Tony Padilla, and Anders Astrand appearing with the New Eastman Jazz Ensemble under director Dave Rivello.
The internationally acclaimed percussion ensemble NEXUS, whose members include Cahn, Bob Becker, Russell Hartenberger, and Garry Kvistad, will join the Eastman Philharmonia and conductor Neil Varon on May 5 in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre to perform the Rochester premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s “Rituals.” Also performing is the Eastman Wind Ensemble under director Mark Scatterday, giving the first presentation of a new percussion concerto by Burritt.
The fourth premiere is a commissioned piece for the Eastman Community Music School’s Drum Joy ensemble, directed by Ruth Cahn. Titled “Five Scenes from the Chinese Martial Arts Novels,” the 15-minute work was written by Weijun Chen, a junior composition student at Eastman, and can be heard for the first time on May 5.
Other guest artists during Percussion Rochester include Juliana Athayde, concertmaster of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, who will appear with the Eastman Percussion Ensemble on May 5; RPO Principal Percussionist Jim Tiller, who will be joined on his May 5 concert by other instrumentalists, including Eastman Professor of Saxophone Ramon Ricker; and marimbist Gordon Stout, who will hold a master class on May 5. Other ensembles performing in the festival include the University of Rochester West African Drumming Ensemble; the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Marimba Band, percussion ensembles from Calkins Road Middle School and Victor High School, the C.A. Palmer Fife and Drum Corps., the Steel Alchemy Community Steel Band, and Rich Thompson and Friends.
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