Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Will I have to play drumset for my audition if I major in Classical Percussion?

A. Yes. We believe that showing skills (even basic ones) at the drumset gives us a better insight into time and coordination.

Q. Will I have the opportunity to practice or warm up before my audition?

A. Sure! We have several practice rooms where you can warm up. Just come to the percussion studio where you will find a percussionist who will let you into one of them where you can practice.

Q. What qualities are you looking for in a student who auditions?

A. I am looking for musicianship, talent, and potential. I am looking for a student who is committed and dedicated to his or her instrument. I don't expect to hear students who are ready for the New York Philharmonic but I do evaluate their potential for a career as a professional. A student with potential but has some weaknesses can still be accepted. I suggest to all auditioning students to take piano lessons. There is so much to learn from a knowledge of the keyboard; it will help you to sightread, to analyze music, to understand phrasing and harmony, and in your general musicianship. Singing in the choir (church or school) can also help.

Q. What kind of timpani will I audition on?

A. We have timpani with balanced action pedals. And we do have a timpani stool for you to use. You are welcome to use whichever set feels most comfortable for you. However, if you have chosen a piece that requires the sticks be played with the wooden end such as the Carter Saeta, the Firth Etude No.1, or the Goodman Ballade for the Dance please note that I will ask you to play with the normal end of the sticks so as not to damage the heads. I am also more interested in hearing your sound on timpani and it is more difficult to tell how you sound when you play with the wood end.

Q. What kind of marimba will I use for my audition?

A. You can audition on an Adams 5 octave, a Yamaha 5 octave or an Adams 4.3 octave.

Q. What is the focus of the percussion department at UNA?

A. We teach orchestral as well as general and world percussion. We think it is important to get a well-rounded percussion education at the undergraduate level. The time to specialize in timpani or marimba is when you go to grad school. However, we use orchestral and solo repertoire to teach the basics and let students work with more diligence on whichever instrument they have an affinity for. We have a number of adjuncts that are specialists in various forms of percussion who our students study with, to expand their capabilities and experiences in the percussion world. Students pick their own direction although we do stress a well-rounded and balanced percussion education. 

Q. Are there opportunities to study jazz vibes and ethnic percussion while at UNA?

A. Certainly! We have a number of adjuncts that are specialists in various forms of percussion who our students study with, to expand their capabilities and experiences in the percussion world. There is a jazz department that features jazz band, and jazz combos. We also study works that are in other ethnic styles, ranging from taiko drumming to Arabic frame drumming.

Q. In general, what type of repertoire do your students study?

A. That is generally quite dependent upon the interests and career path of the students. We perform a diverse range of solo and ensemble works, new works written by members of the studio, group improvisations, and more. The books we use for lessons include: Snare Drum: Peters- Intermediate SD, Payson-SD in the Concert Hall, Delecluse-Methode de Caisse Claire, and Douze Etudes plus my own exercises. Timpani: Hinger Method, Carroll Method, Friese/Lepak Method, and our own exercises. Orchestral repertoire for timpani is the backbone of lessons. Mallets: Zeltsman Book, Kite Book, Green Exercises; our own exercises for 2 and 4 mallets, Musser etudes, Bach Sonatas and Partitas, Cello Suites and other pieces including Japanese Marimba pieces as well as works by American composers such as Thomas, Druckman, and Schwantner for the advanced students. We also include orchestral repertoire as an important ingredient in the development of the well-rounded percussionist. One learns delicacy, style, and how to refine basic techniques such as the roll and ornaments by working on this repertoire. And at the same time, one develops a love for music.

Q. What performance opportunities are available at UNA? Can I expect to play in major ensembles as a freshman?

A. We assign all parts to the major ensembles including Wind Ensemble, and percussion ensemble so there is no negative competition for parts. We can guarantee you will be playing in these ensembles in your first year right next to seniors from whom you will garner much experience. We use the ensembles as an extension of lessons. We will not assign a student to a part if we do not think he or she is prepared to play it successfully, but if they are ready for a part we will give it to them even if they are a freshman. At UNA you have the opportunity from the very beginning to put into practice what you practice.

Q. Are there scholarships available for percussionists?

A. Yes. Scholarships for the various ensembles are available. Scholarships can range up to $4000 a semester. In addition. out of state students can be eligible for an out of state tuition waiver!

Q. What pieces have been played in percussion ensemble in recent years?

A. Deathwish - Gemma Peacocke; Spring Planting - Molly Herron; Spine - Michael Laurello; Lives + (2) - Sarah Hennies; Dark Full Ride - Julia Wolfe; Strings Attached - Erik GriswoldJohn Cage - Amores; David Maslanka - Crown of Thorns; David Gillingham – Stained Glass; David Reeves – Pieces of Eight; Christopher Rouse - Bonham. We try to premiere at least 1 to 2 new pieces per year as well. many of these are compositions written by students in the program!

Q. How many students are in the studio?

A. Typically 15-25.

Q. How does the percussion studio get along?

A. Percussion students by nature tend to get along very well, probably due to the amount of time they spend together in various groups. The studio here is no different. Students will have meals together, work together in the practice rooms, and even a road trip to see great concerts.

Q. How many practice rooms are available for percussionists?

A. We have 6 practice rooms that are exclusively for percussion, but there are marimbas in 3 other rooms for students to practice on. In addition, the percussion studio and percussion majors have extended access to instruments in the band room.

Q. What type of equipment does the university have?

A. A wide range of concert instruments including multiple marimbas, vibraphones and sets of timpani.

Q. What would my first-year course-load consist of at UNA?

A. You would take percussion lessons, percussion ensemble, large ensemble (band or orchestra), marching band, music theory, aural skills, and gen ed.

Q. Do you accept transfer students?

A. Yes upon successful completion of an audition appropriate to the class level for which they bare transferring to the university.

Q. What do your students do when they graduate?

A. Our former students are active as both performers and teachers around the US.