On November 30, a “single eight-armed organism” invades Eastman, when the GRAMMY-winning ensemble Third Coast Percussion performs on the Kilbourn Concert Series.
That vivid description of the group comes from the New York Times and is typical of the widespread acclaim Third Coast Percussion has received. This busy ensemble’s recent history includes several concert tours, a featured performance this month at the Percussive Arts Society Conference, a GRAMMY Award for Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, and a just-announced 2023 GRAMMY nomination in the same category for Third Coast’s latest album, Between Breaths.
The concert is a welcome return to Eastman for Third Coast member Sean Connors, who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in percussion performance and music education 2004 and is now working toward a doctorate (when teaching, concerts, and recordings allow). Citing his music education degree, percussion studies with John Beck, ALP Certificate, and opportunities to perform in all kinds of ensembles, including the Eastman Gamelan, he says: “I found everything I could that interested me and jumped right in! Eastman was an incredible, informative experience.”
Connors is the only group member who attended Eastman, though all four met in Chicago (the “third coast” of the US) while studying at Northwestern University. Their teacher there was Eastman’s current Distinguished Professor of Percussion, Michael Burritt.
The ensemble was formed in 2005; its current roster consists of founding members David Skidmore and Robert Dillon, along with Peter Martin and Connors, who joined in 2013. The last ten years have seen an increase in Third Coast’s concerts, tours, recordings, and educational projects – enough for the group members to end their individual teaching jobs and become a full-time performing ensemble.
Third Coast Percussion has not only built up a large repertoire of music, it has also created most of it. “I would say about 95% of our music has been commissioned by us,” says Connors, “and all four of us are also composers.”
He adds, “We’re also hyper-aware that our group consists of four white males. Percussion music is an important part of all cultures, so our programming represents all musical traditions.” The members also break down the barrier between stage and audience by talking frequently during concerts to introduce unfamiliar music and instruments.
A highlight of the Kilbourn Series concert will be the first local performance of a new piece by Michael Burritt, Since Time Began. Burritt worked closely with Third Coast in preparing this ambitious piece. Sean explains that it was commissioned by the Zildjian Company, one of the world’s foremost producers of percussion instruments, in observance of the company’s 400th anniversary. Inspired by Zildjian’s longevity, Michael Burritt employs different musical styles, from Baroque counterpoint to Turkish folk songs, in each of the work’s four movements to evoke a different century.
Since Time Began also calls for a huge percussion battery featuring a specially made set of large, low-pitched metal pipes struck softly, aggressively, and many other ways. Connors describes Burritt’s imaginative new work as a percussion tour de force, “a big, bold statement and a fantastic piece.”
Kilbourn Concert Series presents Third Coast Percussion
Thursday, November 30 at 7:30 p.m. | Kilbourn Hall
Learn more and purchase tickets at EastmanTheatre.org or by calling 585-274-3000.
BONUS: Click here to watch a video message from Third Coast Percussion!
Top photo: Saverio Truglia