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UCM Percussion Ensemble to Perform with Special Guest

The University of Central Missouri percussion ensemble will be performing their fall concert Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. in Hart Recital Hall. The concert will feature Tijan Dorwana, a successful gyil maker and musician from Ghana.

Alex Smith, assistant professor of percussion, said he has been working with Dorwana since 2012 and brought him to UCM because of their close relationship

“I wanted to make sure I am giving back to him in all the ways he has given to me over the last eight years,” Smith said.

Smith said he wanted to get to know Dorwana because he was interested in making marimbas, a percussion instrument similar to a piano, something in which Dorwana was already skilled.

The concert will feature five pieces. One of the pieces,“Fractalia” by Owen Clayton, involves four marimba players–two students on each marimba–and two drums. The piece involves Taiko drumming (Japanese drumming) with minimalist composition techniques.

“It’s a very challenging piece,” Smith said. “We certainly had plenty of adversity in learning it, but I am happy with where we’re at.”

Kirstin Clark, junior music education major and member of the percussion ensemble, said Fractalia is one of her favorite pieces of the concert.  She said Fractalia is a piece that involves a more call-and-response pattern and is rhythmically challenging.

“It’s pretty cool. It involves two marimbas and all four players have their own set of drums and they go back and forth with that kind of pattern,” Clark said. 

Clark said she likes this piece because it mixes drumming rhythmic sounds with more melodic sounds through the marimbas.

“A lot of the ensembles pick one or the other, and this ensemble decided to join the two,” she said. 

The concert will also feature some original and electronic compositions. 

“I think this concert will be really good because our percussion studio is trying to take the aspect of getting music technology into the percussion realm,” Clark said. “A lot of people don’t know what you can do with music technology when it is incorporated into percussion.”

Clark said the ensembles started rehearsals in August and picked out the pieces they wanted to play and in which ensembles they were going to participate. The ensembles consist of a quintet, two quartets, a duet and a trio.

Smith said the rehearsals are using a chamber music approach because all of the ensembles are smaller. He said he wants his students to learn how to teach themselves and be professional in an environment where they are working closely with other people.

“When you are in a room with four people who you are spending upwards of four hours a week on a piece, you get to know them really well,” he said. “It’s a challenge to learn how to have relationships with them, how to talk with them, and how to critique what a peer is doing in a way that is productive and not offensive but is getting the job done.”

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