James W. Doyle


PASIC Lightning Session B

November 16, 2019, 3pm-3:50pm

Room 201

Indianapolis, Indiana


Presentation Resources:


Woman-Identifying Percussion Ensemble Composer Database:



“Portable” Percussion Ensemble Database:




Gemma Peacocke



inti figgis-vizueta



Molly Herron




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PASIC Presentation:



Join the Live Stream here at 6:50pm MST.


Program info below!



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Program Notes:

Tonight marks a return to the Percussion Extravaganza concept of our percussion concerts. What this means for you as audience members is the opportunity to enjoy a sampling of what defines Adams State Percussion all at one time in one place. First and foremost, we value collaboration and diversity. Tonight’s concert will be no exception.


 We’re honored to premiere a truly unique and beautiful new work by composer Molly Herron. We’ll feature the music education course—Percussion Methods—on their first percussion ensemble performance of their academic careers. The SLV Community Steel Band returns to the stage, the Music of the Americas Project will play classic tunes by legendary Trinidadian pan performers and composers, and will perform traditional samba batucada from Brazil. To bookend the collaborations, we’re pleased to set short films created by Professor Leslie Macklin’s Foundations in Art and Design to our very own original compositions.


Thank you for joining us and enjoy the show!


-The Destruction of Sennacherib is a bombastic work for percussion ensemble and narrator composed by Jeffrey Barudin. The original text, derived from the Bible, is a poem by Lord Byron (1788-1824) published in 1815, and depicts the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem on 701 BC.


The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,

And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;

And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,

When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.


Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,

That host with their banners at sunset were seen:

Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,

That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.


For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,

And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;

And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,

And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still!


And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,

But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;

And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,

And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.


And there lay the rider distorted and pale,

With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:

And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,

The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.


And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,

And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;

And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,

Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!


-The ASU Marimba Band provides service the campus and great SLV community and performs popular music and traditional music of Central America. El Marinero, The Sailor, is a traditional marimba tune from Honduras.


-Dave Molk is a Denver-based composer with deep connections to percussion and new music. I find this work to be a perfect blend of art music and EDM, equally at home in a dance club or a concert hall. Molk says this about his work, dreams:

Written for the So Percussion Summer Institute (SoSI) 2016, dreams premiered as a trio plus electronics. Two non-pitched multi-setups anchor dreams, their complicated rhythms alternating dialogue and unison yet always supporting and propelling the piece forward to ever-greater highs. A virtuosic vibraphone is placed front and center, weaving in and out of the electronics (live mixed or pre-recorded), creating pulsating melodies that flicker with colorful licks.


-Molly Herron composed Spring Planting for the Adams State University Percussion Department and we are delighted to premiere the piece this evening. She scored the piece to include three metal rulers, two pitched gongs, two crotales, and two flower pots.

Herron writes music for a variety of new music ensembles, including So Percussion. She says this about Spring Planting:

I starting writing this piece in the early spring and was going back and forth between composing and getting seedlings ready for the warming earth outside. There seemed to me to be some kind of corollary between the strange little sound world I was finding with the ruler and the mysteries of soil and insects and sprouting seeds.


-The Percussion Methods class is an upper-divisional course designed to teach percussion pedagogy to music education majors. Tonight’s performers are vocalists, wind players, and string players, all combining to perform Texas-based composer Ralph Hicks’ Low Tide and are conducted by percussion graduate student, Andrew Naughton.


-Derek Tywoniuk is a Los Angeles-based composer, educator and percussionist. He says this about his marimba quartet, Happenstance:

At its heart, Happenstance is a piece about camaraderie. Relationships are often the result of relative coincidence, be it a brief moment (for example, running into someone at a coffee shop), or larger time span (being at the same point and place in your career or personal life at the same time). This piece resulted from the latter. As I began composing this work for the Smoke and Mirrors Ensemble, I thought about our good fortune—specifically, that the four of us ended up in the same institution during the same period of our lives and, because of this, how privileged I was to be inspired every day by these three great musicians and friends: Joseph Beribak, Edward Hong, and Katalin La Favre.

Happenstance can be heard on the Smoke and Mirrors Ensemble’s debut album on Yarlung Records. It has also been performed at Zeltsman Marimba Festival, the San Francisco Conservatory (directed by Jack van Geem) and the University of North Texas (directed by Paul Rennick).



-The xylophone ragtime music of George Hamilton Green made a resurgence in the 1970’s thanks to the percussion group, NEXUS. sophomore David Knight’s rendition of Jovial Jasper is as lighthearted as it is virtuosic.


-Art Professor Leslie Macklin and I discussed collaborating for a work between our students and tonight we bring you a live percussion soundtrack with six film shorts created by members of her Foundations in Art and Design class.


-This semester, Persian music specialist Nariman Assadi presented workshops and performances at Adams State University and worked extensively with students and faculty. Sama is a work he taught us inspired by music of Kurdistan and Iran.


-Sophomore Alex Youngbird arranged Steve Wonder’s hit song, Isn’t She Lovely for the ASU Marimba Band and is an example of the popular music the service ensemble can perform for the community.


-The SLV Community Steel Band is comprised of individuals from throughout the SLV region and rehearse one hour a week on Tuesday evenings. Anyone is welcome to join this ensemble, regardless of musical experience.


-The Music of the Americas Project will perform two works for steel band and a samba batucada in preparation for a performance at CMEA is 2020. This ensemble, the newest in the Department of Music, performs the music of Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, the American South, and Brazil.



Live Stream Here! 

Director’s Note:


The Spring 2019 academic semester began with a percussion ensemble clinic/performance at the Colorado Music Educators Association Conference (CMEA) at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs on the topic of portable “backpack” percussion works. The students on stage this evening are composing a collection of beginner to intermediate works for portable percussion to be available this summer. This project is for directors and students to have affordable and accessible means for chamber music development.


In addition to tonight’s performance, the musicians you’re hearing gave more than ten performances throughout the community as part of our outreach chamber ensemble program. We also heard Kevin Johnson’s senior recital and Delaney Armstrong’s junior recital this spring—both outstanding in their own right. We will conclude our spring performance schedule with Emily Johnson’s senior recital in two weeks, a recording session of tonight’s repertoire, and eight “backpack percussion” concerts in the Four Corners region on behalf of the Music in the Mountains Festival in the week following final exams.


Tonight’s repertoire is a sampling of the music we’ve performed since January and this program was curated as an example of exciting works by outstanding composers who’ve stretched what’s considered the “standard repertoire.” The oldest piece we’ll perform is Steve Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood by Steve Reich, written in 1973 with Leonard Bernstein’s Halil in close proximity with a composition date of 1981.


Most exciting for the ensemble was the commissioning project we undertook with two outstanding composers—inti figgis-vizueta and Molly Herron. Tonight’s performance will feature the world premiere of figgis-vizueta’s To Give You Form and Breath and we will premiere Herron’s work in the Fall academic semester. It’s been a truly unique and special experience for the students to work on all facets of the commissioning process and have the opportunity to interact with such gifted and progressive composers.



Tonight’s Program:


Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), was one of America’s greatest composers, conductors, writers, educators, pianists, and television personalities. Known for works such as West Side Story and On the Waterfront, Bernstein wrote prolifically for percussion in the orchestra, but never wrote for solo or chamber percussion.


Halil (1981) was composed by Bernstein in honor and memory of a young Israeli flutist, Yadin Tanenbaum, who was killed in the Yom Kippur War. It was originally composed for solo flute and chamber orchestra but has since been adapted to be performed with a percussion ensemble of standard orchestral percussion instruments. Bernstein writes, “…it is like much of my music in its struggle between tonal and non-tonal forces. In this case, I sense that struggle as involving wars and the threat of wars, the overwhelming desire to live, and the consolations of art, love and the hope for peace.”


Emily Johnson divided her time at Adams State as a flutist, percussionist, light and sound designer, and project manager and we are pleased to present her as guest flute soloist this evening. Upon graduation, Emily will assume the full-time position of Operations Manager of the Music in the Mountains in Durango, Colorado. We are also grateful to be joined by collaborative pianist Becky Hand. Emily will give her final flute recital on May 10th, featuring works for flute and percussion, flute and electronics, and an encore performance of Halil.



Brooklyn, New York-based Alyssa Weinberg composed Ember (2018) through a commission consortium by the New Works for Percussion Project. I recently joined the board of this fine organization and am a co-commissioner of Ember, a new work by Juri Seo, and a work in progress by Molly Joyce. The New Works for Percussion Project seeks to make commissioning new works for percussion affordable, collaborative, communal, and inclusive, to include portable set ups of instruments. Ember utilizes a unique instrumentation, focused around two inverted snare drums with crotales, coins, and a single glockenspiel note on each drum, with two almglocken (tuned cowbells), a prayer bowl, and a metal mixing bowl shared between performers. We use brass banjo picks for the middle section of the work and seek to explore the rich colors and textures available with this combination of instruments.



Adams State music composition major Brandi Quinn wrote Phonophobia (2019) in an effort to develop her knowledge of writing for the percussive medium. She says this about her piece:

The constant rim-clicks between the snare and toms represent a metronome click. The addition of auxiliary percussion adds another layer of depth that the piece seemed to need. The challenge of this piece was the fact that there is no melodic instrument so I had to find a way to make it interesting without boring the audience. The use of dynamics and meter changes is integral in making this happen.


Quinn is a composition student of Dr. Matthew Schildt and a trumpet student of Dr. Angela Winter.


We are please to present the World Premiere of To Give you Form and Breath (2019) by inti figgis-vizueta. This fascinating work for resonant and non-resonant metals, wood, and glass bottles was commissioned by the Adams State Percussion Studio for tonight’s concert. The work demands much of the performers in the way of metric modulations, phasing, gestural improvisation, and chamber music skills in that the work constantly evolves from pattern to pattern with the musicians aligning and falling out of alignment by design.


figgis-vizueta says this about their work:

Inspired by the poetry of Joy Harjo, this piece centers around creation stories and their central nature to indigenous identity. Much of native belief and collective knowledge stem from oral traditions and the lens they provide is core to our understanding of the world and the spirits that live with us. To give you form and breath seeks to channel portions of that understanding through the use of 'ground' objects and manipulations of rhythm as manipulations of time.The piece acts as one of these stories, perhaps to a people already long forgotten.


inti figgis-vizueta (they/them) is a queer Andinx experimental composer based in Brooklyn, NY. They write identity-focused musics, often channeling storytelling and the manifestation of non-hegemonic voices in concert spaces. inti works to create transparent, self-contained musical processes through which melodic and timbreal interaction blooms and consumes itself. inti studied with Felipe Lara.


inti has received numerous awards, most recently the 2019 Hildegard Competition from National Sawdust, the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings featuring the American Composer's Orchestra, and the 2019 Mizzou International Composer's Festival featuring Alarm Will Sound. They've won calls for scores for organizations & festivals such as West Cork Chamber Music Festival, Verdant Vibes, N/A Ensemble, UnTwelve, Baltimore Choral Arts, and 113 Collective. Their music has also been played by ensembles such as loadbang, PUBLIQuartet, Hypercube, RTE Contempo String Quartet, and Balance Campaign as well as the Shenandoah Valley Youth Orchestra and SJSU Wind Ensemble. They were featured at the New Music Gathering as a panelist in 2017 and as a featured composer in 2018 as well as at the New Latin Wave Festival 2018, curated by Angélica Negrón. inti actively freelances with recent commissions including clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich, trumpeter Kate Amrine, countertenor Luke Paulino, and the duo Mazumal (Felicia Chen & Olivia J. Harris).


When not composing, inti works as the Director of Inclusion at the Boulanger Initiative and as a curator for Score Follower.​



Music for Pieces of Wood (1973) is an early percussion work by Steve Reich and one of his most often performed compositions for percussion. In addition to being portable, Music for Pieces of Wood encompasses the standard characteristics of Reich’s minimalist style, with repetitive rhythms, augmentation “build-ups,” and in three diminishing sections. I first heard Music for Pieces of Wood performed by the legendary percussion group, NEXUS, and again soon thereafter by the composer’s own ensemble, Steve Reich and Musicians. Reich continues to play a considerable role in the development of chamber percussion music and is often described as one of America’s greatest living composers.


Composed for five percussionists, we’ve doubled the “Player 2” static rhythm part to involve the six performers who performed at CMEA and will perform on our “backpack percussion” tour. Reich intends for the wooden instruments to be specifically tuned claves. Ensemble member Alex Youngbird tuned six pieces of purple heart wood for our performance.


Projected above the performers is a photo series of the sculpture collection “Rin” by Japanese sculptor Koshi Hayashi. I’ve had the pleasure of performing Music for Pieces of Wood with Hayashi throughout Japan amongst his sculptures and am pleased to announce he will serve as an artist-in-residence at Adams State this September.




La Sirène (2010), or “The Mermaid” is a silent film by the French filmmaker Georges Méliès and was released in 1904. It’s important to note silent film was never likely projected without live musical accompaniment. Since the inception of the motion picture, musicians have accompanied the onscreen action, typically using existing repertoire selected by the individual musicians in the movie house to suit the film. For smaller venues, a single pianist or organist often served as accompanist, with larger houses using orchestras and percussionists to provide additional sound effects. The musicians would watch the film and make musical decisions “in the moment,” thus providing a different sonic experience with each showing.


Composer and percussionist Gene Koshinski set original music to La Sirène and was heavily influenced by Nigel Westlake’s composition The Invisible Men. Westlake’s work is an epic twelve-minute composition for percussion quartet accompanying the whimsical film Les Invisibles, produced by Pathé in 1906. Westlake’s 1996 composition was the primary topic of my doctoral dissertation, with a chapter devoted to analyzing La Sirène. You can read the full document here: https://www.jameswdoyle.com/writings/


Koshinski and Westlake’s works both include foley art (the art of matching sound to film), emphasizing the actions of the actor on screen and original thematic material—both of which would not have been present during the silent film era. To perform these works, each player uses headphones to align to a special click-track to keep all moments perfectly in time with the film without a need to watch the film for pacing.



The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows: ambedo (2018) was first brought to my attention at the 2018 Percussive Arts Society International Convention where it was performed by both the Baylor and University of Tennessee percussion groups. I immediately made my way to the exhibit hall to purchase the work and meet the composer, Annika Socolofsky as the piece was moving in its emotional content and compositional depth. Subtle in nature, the performers utilize plastic banjo picks, bass bows, and mallets to bend pitches on the vibraphone.


Socolofsky says this about her work:

The concept for this piece comes from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a collection of words invented by John Koenig that "aims to fill a hole in the [English] language—to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for.” The title for this piece comes from the definition for “ambedo.”


ambedo n. a kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details—raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee—which leads to a dawning awareness of the haunting fragility of life, a mood whose only known cure is the vuvuzela.


Read more of John Koenig’s beautiful definitions at




Gemma Peacocke’s marimba quartet, Death Wish (2017) is a breathtaking work and quickly becoming a favorite for professional and university percussion ensembles. Requiring extreme ensemble precision, attention to timbral detail, and unrelenting rhythmic drive, Death Wish is a musical tour de force for four performers on two marimbas with many mallets.


Peacocke says this about her work:

I wrote Death Wish after watching a short film featuring New Zealand survivors of sexual assault. One of the survivors, Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan, spoke about the out-of-control spiralling of her life for many years and how she developed what she called a death wish. In the piece I thought about the spooling and unspooling of energy and how we are all bound and driven by forces both within and beyond ourselves.

With the greatest of respect for Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan who has used her life to create art and music and to help survivors of abuse and those who have perpetrated abuse.

Tonight’s pre and post-concert music is from Peacocke’s latest album, Waves and Lines, released in 2019. We owe a great thank you to Peacocke for her assistance in researching and connecting us with the terrific composers we’ve commissioned for our ensemble and we look forward to performing more of her works for percussion.

---James W. Doyle


Two CD release concerts coming up with Apricity Trio--both benefitting student and faculty exchange between Gunma University, Japan, and Adams State University, Colorado.

Join us in Alamosa, CO


Santa Fe, NM!

Read more about us here



In an effort to make chamber percussion music more accessible to all, the Adams State Percussion Studio is embarking on a multi-year project to create several volumes of works for “portable” percussion ensemble. Young percussionists, regardless of socio-economic factors, rehearsal space availability, and instrument inventory should have the opportunity to rehearse and perform works written solely for percussion. This project intends to address the needs of percussionists of all levels and add to the chamber percussion repertoire both pedagogically and artistically.


The final product will be made available to the public via download (or print) at minimal cost, with all proceeds going to the Adams State University Percussion Studio for future projects and expenses of this project.


Volume One is intended for beginning percussionists and for percussion trio.


Each volume will include pedagogical information, annotations, and be overseen for quality, accessibility, and difficulty by Dr. James W. Doyle. The pieces will be recorded and available on YouTube for promotions and educational purposes.


For each work, composers are given specific guidance in the form a of a rubric and recommended workflow.


Adams State University percussion students are contributing to this edition and guest composers are welcome to join us!


Volume One is expected to be released by July 1, 2019.


If interested in contributing to Volume One or future volumes, please contact me!


Here are the details--note the "assignment" verbiage is intended for my students.


To view (or add to) an ongoing database of existing "portable" percussion works, click here.  


Below are links to pdf's pertaining to three of my clinics for the 2019 Colorado Music Educator's Conference at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Also below is a database link for percussion ensemble works that fit in a backpack (or close to it!).  Check back frequently for updates, share, and feel free to add to the list.

Please feel free to email me with any questions!

Plays Well with Others

"Practical Applications for Chamber Music in Your Band Program"

Clinic Handout


Snare Drum FUNdamentals Clinic

"Free Rebounding: The Relaxed Full Stroke"

Clinic Handout



"The Backpack Percussion Ensemble: Creating Valuable Percussion Ensemble Experiences with Less"

Clinic Handout

Repertoire Database of works for portable percussion ensemble


Email me before February 1st to receive Volume One of the Portable Works for Percussion collection, due for release on July 1 at no cost to you.


The Adams State University Percussion Ensemble Presents:




Director’s Note:

Programming for ensembles should carry a heavy burden. Asking students to commit untold hours of individual preparation, sectional rehearsals, instrument building, mallet selection, full ensemble rehearsals, research, recording sessions, and post production work for a single performance requires consideration worthy of their education and artistic growth. As an educator, I first consider the individual students involved.


What’s needed for their development, grounded in pedagogy, and aligning to their career goals? How can we reach a high level of artistry and musicianship through repertoire in a relatively short timeframe? Does the music represent the greater needs of the community? Are the genres and compositional aspects of the music performed diverse and representative of the world in which we live? We wrestle with these relevant and pressing topics in every rehearsal.


Tonight’s performance is a snapshot of what it is we strive for as a collective. We find collaboration through chamber music to be of the utmost importance. We believe representation matters. Our programming, preparation, and commitment to the greater good certainly has intrinsic value for each of us, but performing for you, friends, family, supporters, colleagues, and peers, is our pursuit. We put ourselves wholeheartedly into staging tonight’s concert, in collaboration with outstanding soloists, to present to you the best of Adams State University.


Program Notes:

Mexican composer Carlos Chávez delivered one of the earliest serious works (1942) for classical percussion ensemble in his setting of Toccata for Percussion Instruments. Initially intended for performance by the avant-garde American composer John Cage’s percussion group, the extensive sections of rolls proved too difficult for Cage and his musicians. The three movement work utilizes traditional compositional techniques and a standard percussion battery of instruments. Written less than a decade after the premiere of the first true percussion ensemble work, Edgar Varèse’s Ionisation, Toccata provides context of the early repertoire for our medium.


In tribute to Veteran’s Day and the storied history of rudimental military drumming, The Infantryman is a modern portrayal of the technical demands every percussionist must master to carry on the ancient tradition of martial music.


Percussion instruments are frequently used to evoke atmospheric imagery. The proliferation of modern percussion instruments paralleled the space race of the 20th century and are routinely utilized in film scores representative of outer space. Marilyn Bliss composed Aurora Borealis in response to author Barry Lopez’s writings on life, the history, and ecology in the arctic region in his book, Arctic Dreams. Lopez describes the aurora as “pale gossamer curtains of light that seem to undulate across the arctic skies.” Bliss means for her work to inflect the “shimmering, almost tangible” quality of the aurora with a deeply meditative and spiritual presence.


In 1972, American composer Steve Reich wrote and premiered Clapping Music. Scored simply for two musicians, the piece begins in a unison pattern with one performer phasing the pattern an eighth note at a time, creating eleven variations. In total, there are thirteen sections of clapping—the first and last being in unison. The pattern is:


1-2-3, 1-2, 1, 1-2


This hourglass shape of rhythm begins with a grouping of three, followed by a grouping of two, then a single note before reversing to a grouping of two and back to three. The rhythmic pattern, inspired by an African bell pattern known as Atsiagbekor, represents a shift in Reich’s early experimentation in minimalism from tape phasing to rhythmically-notated phases.


To extend the concept of “clapping” into metaphor, one may contemplate the idea of the performers clapping on stage while the audience quietly listens. In fact, how an audience does (or does not) participate in performances varies throughout different cultures, many of which influenced and inspired Reich.


Tonight’s performance of Clapping Music will transform immediately into Glenn Kotche’s arrangement of Clapping Music Variations. Kotche, a Grammy-winning percussionist with the band, Wilco provided an outline for development of Reich’s pattern—an outline we’ve adapted into our own variation.


The second half of tonight’s performance is a collaboration with musicians very close to the Adams State University Percussion Studio. In addition to Dr. Matthew Valverde, tenor and Dr. Tracy Doyle, flute being on faculty at Adams State, my colleagues and I are also on faculty of the Mt. Blanca Summer Music Conservatory, led by artistic director and tonight’s featured soloist, violinist Dr. Sarah Off.


Hammers is a work inspired by a walk through the busy and aurally-stimulating New York City soundscape. Construction, industrial, and transportation sounds are present 24 hours a day and composer Allison Loggins-Hull’s composition portrays a “manic sensibility” experienced in America’s greatest city.


Grammy-winner and Princeton University composition faculty member Steven Mackey says this about his work, Madrigal:


Madrigal is a short study in words and music. I wrote the text and music together to allow a negotiation between the melodic line, harmony, and partly an orchestrational decision made by shaping the singer’s mouth. The choice between a word with a long “O” sound versus one with a long “A” sound is like deciding between a trumpet and a clarinet. This process also afforded me with occasions to use text to reinforce ad hoc and asymmetrical rhymes in the harmony and vice versa.


With steadfast ardor my ancient companion speaks.

At ev’ry turn and ev’ry straight

at ev’ry tick I bid him wait

the murmur ceaseless rustling

the hourglass gently whispering

“perhaps we can break your heart full.”


I drink your water. I draw in the shallow sand.

The softest touch. The sweetest taste.

How trying not to gulp in haste.

the murmur ceaseless rustling

the hourglass gently whispering

“at best we can make it artful.”


A trap a reef a gypsy a thief

you cannot banish one wonder where she goes

that child who vanished as the daughter grows

the bandit leaves clues memories

Time my heartbeat seasons

Time my sadness reasons


Time eternal reason (foil to) my reason

coin of the realm

it is time measuring degrees

of my fragility

The past is spent the future is an IOU

your treasure is now


The murmuring rustling ceaseless whispering murmuring rustling

The whispering murmuring rustling


It takes an adventurous and highly-skilled violinist to perform Concerto for Violin with Percussion Orchestra. When Dr. Sarah Off and I discussed performing this masterwork of the percussion repertoire—a work rarely performed due to the demands of the violin part—I was delighted by her energy and enthusiasm for the collaboration. Sarah is a consummate professional and inspiring artist, educator, and SLV native.


The late American composer Lou Harrison wrote numerous exciting and truly unique works for percussion despite lacking the traditional European or “East Coast” music education. Like his contemporaries Henry Cowell, John Cage, and other members of the “West Coast Group” of composers writing non-traditional works, Harrison scored for percussion instruments beyond the standard battery. Clock coils mounted to a guitar body, a percussively-played upright bass, found metal objects, tuned metal conduit, and a variety of gongs are just some of the requirements for this work. In three movements, this epic composition challenges the violin soloist and percussionists alike in angular dance-like rhythms, layers of timbres and textures, and virtuosic technical demands of the soloist.



If you see a problem, engage to find solutions.


A few months ago, I was casually perusing social media over my morning coffee. It was the height of the fall semester “concert season" in academia and numerous concert programs were being posted by directors of percussion ensembles, wind bands, and the like.

A quick calculation of the composers represented—38. Of those composers, 38 were male. Of the 38, 37 were white males.


Did this come as a surprise?


An examination of Steve Weiss's catalogue of percussion ensemble repertoire, listed by popularity, will show the vast majority of composers listed fall into the category of works by white male composers. The reasons for this are immense and worthy of debate. I will get into the “why” in the future, but for now, wish to share the process I experienced over this past summer.


While considering my percussion ensemble programming for the 2017-2018 academic year, I spent significant time searching, and I truly mean SEARCHING for repertoire written specifically by women composers.


It was difficult.


Yes, there are known works by Keiko Abe, a handful of works by a variety of percussionists/composers, and the historically significant works by Johanna Beyer. However, my typical resources for programming were turning up fewer results than I imagined.


Digging deeper was a definite necessity.


I took the search to social media—specifically Twitter—to follow composers unknown to me. I reached out to friends and colleagues for suggestions. I went down the internet rabbit hole perusing countless composer websites looking for self-published works.


When I did find something and reached out to the composer, to the person, everyone was wonderful about sharing perusal scores and when available, recordings. There it was. Self-published scores and independent publishers is where it’s at.

At that moment, I decided to program my fall concert with works written solely by composers who happen to identify as women.


If you see a problem, engage to find solutions.


I wanted to program something historically significant, something from an emerging composer, a student composer, and as always, works addressing the other considerations necessary in a university. I needed to balance the educational learning outcomes of my ensemble, personnel availability, rehearsal schedules, instruments in our inventory, concert flow, and set changes.


Essentially, I needed to find a plethora of repertoire, so we would have options to choose from.


Here’s the program we gave in November:


Round for Three Muses by Andrea Clearfield

Chou Xi by Li Tao

Settle by Sarah Hennies

Mystification by Miranda Johnson

Taxidermy by Caroline Shaw

March for 30 Percussion Instruments and Percussion Opus 14 by Johanna Beyer


Here’s a link to the program notes:



The morning I woke up to 38 out of 38 works by male composers in my news feed led me to start a database of the works I discovered in my research. To date, there are 77 works by women composers listed and there will surely be many more. It’s my hope the list will be shared, added to, and influence others to consider how they program.



Database of Women Composers of Percussion Ensemble Repertoire


So what was the impact beyond a database of composers and a single program?


For my students and I, it’s created a discussion and new initiatives.

We debated the finer points of how to market the concert program—do we draw attention to the unfortunate uniqueness of the program or normalize it by letting the program happen as is?

How does the awareness of our repertoire being primarily dominated by white male composers impact future programming in the ensemble and solo recital repertoire?

What’s our role in moving forward the music of underrepresented composers?

What does it mean to be inclusive?


For example, this past Friday in studio class, we discussed what it means to perform someone’s work who’s a known anti-feminist. This led to discussions about performing works by known racists, homophobes, etc. My students engaged in a beautiful and insightful discussion. Professional. Thoughtful. Well-informed.

We discussed the often uttered statement “good music is good music regardless of race or gender." Can we add value to an already valuable experience?

What does it mean to champion someone’s music and how powerful of a role do we play when programming?


There’s much more to write on these topics and I intend to. For today, however, I hope readers will consider their programming. Take a moment to look back at your programming. Take a moment to consider what thought processes you use. Consider the impact your programming has on others.


Be it a solo recital, chamber ensemble, or large ensemble. What does your programming say about your ethos? Can you dig deeper into the music for your art form, question what is “standard repertoire,” and how it became so?


To put it simply, consider the equity of your programming and the impact you make. Make a difference for you, your audience, and composers who deserve to be programmed. And if you’re an educator, the impact on your students is of the utmost importance.


For me, I believe I have an obligation to my students, the art form I love, and the future of chamber percussion music. I'll constantly seek good music wherever it may be...which is often not on the first page of a Google search. I'll ensure the programming of underrepresented composers. I'll advocate for and commission works by great composers who are marginalized by centuries of precedent. And most importantly, I'll be sure these discussions continue amongst my students as a core of our studio ethos.


What do you think? How do you program? What are your considerations?


Please share your thoughts!



And here’s the live stream from our November concert. The music speaks for itself:

Adams State University Fall Percussion Extravaganza LiveStream



Composition XX

Notes by Dr. James Doyle

Link to Live Stream 


Notes from the Director


As the title of the concert suggests, all of tonight’s works were written by women. While it would be ideal to normalize this fact by not drawing attention to the uniqueness of the programming, it is arguably necessary. When researching repertoire for this academic year, I became keenly aware of the fact that nearly every program I've seen from institutions around the U.S. have been comprised entirely of male composers. While perusing the usual sources of sheet music, it is clear why--much of the standard published canon is such.


We've made the decision to dig deeper into the percussion repertoire to find works that should be performed but for a myriad of reasons, are underrepresented. We are also interested in emerging composers, unpublished/self-published works, and pieces written by non-percussionist composers.


The chamber percussion repertoire has expanded dramatically in less than 100 years and will continue to flourish with the commissioning, encouragement, and programming of a diversity of composers. In our little slice of the percussive universe we look forward to doing our part.


Set Change Music


Tonight’s set-change music is from Caroline Shaw’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning composition, Partita for 8 Voices. The composer is heard singing on this Grammy-award winning recording with her a cappella contemporary ensemble, Roomful of Teeth.


Round for Three Muses


Andrea Clearfield is a Philadelphia-based composer with connections to our region. She regularly composes at retreat centers in Taos and throughout Northern New Mexico as a fellowship recipient of the Wurlitzer Foundation. A champion of collaborative and multi-disciplinary works, she’s the host of Salon, a concert series held in Philadelphia, Taos, and throughout Colorado. In its 31st year, this concert series features contemporary, classical, electronic, dance, multimedia, and world music. Additionally, Andrea is a scholar of Tibetan music and has done extensive ethnomusicological fieldwork in remote regions of Nepal. This influence may be heard in aspects of tonight’s performance.


Round for Three Muses was inspired by a poem by David Wagoner "Round for the Muses" quoting Picasso, "to draw you must close your eyes and sing," the poem "Heartbeat" by Rainer Maria Rilke, and the ancient Greek Muses. The piece is a cross between a concert work and a performance art piece, where the performers play their instruments and speak, sing, and move.


The piece is structured with an introduction and three continuous movements loosely associated with the three ancient Muses:


  1. MELETE (muse of meditation)
  2. AOIDE (muse of voice and song)
  3. MNEME (muse of memory)


We received special permission to perform this new work from the composer and the commissioner, Yun Ju Pan. Round for Three Muses was officially premiered last week at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. Sophomore Delaney Armstrong, percussion performance major and vocal minor is the soloist and is joined tonight by senior music education and percussion performance majors Andrew Naughton, Dryden Hill, and Kevin Johnson.


Chou Xi


Tao Li is an emerging composer, PhD. candidate, and teaching fellow at the University of Oregon. While programming this concert, I contacted Chelsea Oden, Adams State alum and who’s also a current composition PhD. and teaching fellow at the University of Oregon. She recommended her colleague’s percussion ensemble compositions and Chou Xi immediately appealed to me for its complex rhythmic structures and Chinese influence. Tao, a graduate of Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music says this about her work:


Chou Xi –literally translated clown’s role– is inspired by the traditional Chinese Peking opera. There are five general categories of characters in Peking opera, Chou is one of them. The role of Chou is in general a mood changer and performs in between the scenes and other characters. Because of the humorous speaking dialogue and a lot of funny body movements, when Chou is on the stage they are always accompanied by different kinds of percussion instruments. In this piece, I use elements of Peking opera to represent some of the movements of Chou.


Dryden Hill and Kevin Johnson are joined by sophomore percussion performance major, Jeslyn Dees tonight. Jeslyn plays two Chinese opera gongs, recognizable by their distinctive pitch-bending quality. 




To contrast the bombastic nature of Chou Xi, Settle is a contemplative work with minimalist instrumentation and composition. Written by New York-based composer, producer, improviser, and contemporary music record label founder Sarah Hennies, the piece never exceeds a moderate dynamic, tempo, or texture. Realized in three sections, the performers are to use a timer to institute each change in mood. In place of a physical timer, tonight’s performers will take their cues from light changes.


Delaney Armstrong and Emily Johnson, who’s a junior music business major, flute performance major, and percussion minor were classmates at Reardan High School in Eastern, WA and tonight perform together on this meditative work.




Opportunities for student composers to work with an ensemble to have their work performed is of value to the Adams State Department of Music. Miranda Johnson, a senior composition major, wrote Mystification for the ensemble as a composition project and provided our students a chance to prepare a piece on limited rehearsals. Delaney Armstrong, Jeslyn Dees, Dryden Hill, Kevin Johnson, and Andrew Naughton perform tonight’s premiere of Mystification.




Caroline Shaw is the youngest winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music and is a Grammy-winning singer with the ensemble, Roomful of Teeth. Trained as a violinist, she performs with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, and numerous other contemporary music and dance ensembles. As a singer, she’s performed with a diverse group of contemporary chamber and popular ensembles, and she can be heard on Kanye West’s 808’s & Heartbreak and The Life of Pablo.


Her compositions have been commissioned and performed by large ensembles and chamber music groups alike, including the Cincinnati and Baltimore Symphonies, the Brentano String Quartet, and the New York City based and award-winning quartet, Sō Percussion. Taxidermy was composed for Sō and premiered at Princeton in 2012. Caroline writes about her work:


Why Taxidermy? I just find the word strangely compelling, and it evokes something grand, awkward, epic, silent, funny, and just a bit creepy — all characteristics of this piece, in a way. The repeated phrase toward the end (“the detail of the pattern is movement”) is a little concept I love trying (and failing) to imagine. It comes from T.S. Eliot’s beautiful and perplexing Burnt Norton (from the Four Quartets), and I’ve used it before in other work — as a kind of whimsical existentialist mantra.


Senior music business and general business double major Zachary Carpenter joins Jeslyn Dees, Dryden Hill, and Andrew Naughton for this evening’s performance.


A special thanks to Ruthie Brown at the Green Spot for the use of the 12 clay pots needed to perform Taxidermy. We were given the opportunity to test her inventory of plant pots for the necessary pitches for tonight’s performance.


March for 30 Percussion Instruments and Percussion Opus 14


German-American composer Johanna Beyer was associated with the experimental composers known as the “West Coast School.” This group of composers, considered modernists and based primarily throughout California and Washington, were led by notable composers Henry Cowell (whom Johanna was a student), John Cage, and Lou Harrison.


March for 30 Percussion Instruments is a quirky piece in that is written in 4 ½/4 time instead of the traditional marching meter of 4/4 time. Thus, an asymmetrical pulse is felt by the listener. Traditional percussion instruments, found instruments, and unique instruments are scored in the composition. Written in 1939, this piece was conceived in the same decade as the percussion ensemble’s first true work, Edgar Varèse’s Ionisation (composed in 1931and premiered in 1933).


Percussion Opus 14, also composed in 1939,is a colorful work constructed around a rhythmic ostinato performed on a single timpano. Both works are traditional in nature and historically relevant to what is an otherwise young medium—the percussion ensemble.


We found it appropriate to conclude this evening’s concert with all seven performers paying tribute to Johanna Beyer’s often overlooked pioneering work.




Tonight's livestream can be found here:

Percussion Extravaganza Livestream


Program notes, composer, and soloist information can be found below. 


Malachite Glass—Nigel Westlake


Malachite Glass is a twelve-minute work for percussion quartet and amplified bass clarinet. The work was commissioned in 1990 by the Australian percussion group, Synergy Percussion. Nigel Westlake, an accomplished clarinetist with an affinity for the bass clarinet and a close relationship with the members of Synergy Percussion, composed a fascinating and unique work for the unusual chamber ensemble. Westlake said of the piece:


Malachite Glass further explores ideas found in some of my previous works for Synergy such as Omphalo Centric Lecture. When writing for marimba I always refer to its ancient counterpart, the African balofon, the music of which is frequently based on repeated rhythmic ostinati. Throughout Malachite Glass, two of the percussionists play marimbas. The other two play a selection of traditional and modern percussion instruments and provide the driving motor of the piece. The bass clarinet is treated as an equal rather than as a soloist, & burbles & shakes its way throughout, supporting the rhythmic drive & providing melodic fragments.


In preparation for tonight’s performance, the percussion ensemble visited the Edward M. Ryan Geology Museum at Adams State University to study specimens of the green/teal glass-like mineral that served as inspiration to the composer and is the title of the work.


Tonight’s bass clarinet soloist, Alyssa Powell served as instructor of single reeds at Adams State University for three years and will be moving to Columbus, OH this fall to begin doctoral studies at The Ohio State University.


Ashen Skies—Caleb Pickering


Composer and percussionist Caleb Pickering wrote Ashen Skies for the Adams State University Percussion Ensemble in the summer of 2016. Caleb and I studied at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas together and his music, energy, and performance ability always inspired me. Pickering visited Adams State University this spring and performed a solo recital, taught private lessons, and worked with tonight’s performers.


The piece requires intense dexterity for the musicians, including a single performer plucking a guitar with his right hand while playing three note chords with mallets on tuned metal conduit piping with his left hand. The piece is in ABA form, utilizes rhythms in hocket, and requires the three musicians to interact subtly to create a sonic soundscape of both definite and indefinite pitched instruments.


To learn more about Caleb Pickering and his compositions, visit his website here.


Uneven Souls—Nebojsa Zivkovic     


I had the great pleasure of performing this work with the composer, Nebojsa Zivkovic at the Adelaide Conservatorium at the University of Adelaide in South Australia in 2014. Zivkovic’s Uneven Souls is virtuosic for the marimba soloist and ensemble combined and alternate between haunting melodies and maniacal rhythms. When junior percussion major Dryden Hill expressed interest in performing this work, we agreed he would not only learn the marimba part, but would coach the ensemble and sing the chant melodies in preparation for tonight’s performance. While I provided insight into my experience working and performing with the composer, tonight’s musicians made this work their own.




Xochiquetzal—Robert Xavier Rodriguez


In the summer of 2016, Dallas-based violinist Chloé Trevor and I discussed the possibility of collaborating on a unique work for violin and percussion. We’ve performed together with the Music in the Mountains Festival Orchestra in Durango, CO for several summers but have never performed together outside of the orchestral setting. We agreed to undertake the challenge of putting together the monumental Xochiquetzal for violin soloist and percussion sextet and rehearsed as an ensemble for the past three days. This chamber concerto is thoroughly explained by the composer:


Xochiquetzal is a 22-minute Chamber Concerto for Violin and Percussion Sextet. Xochiquetzal was designed as a companion piece to Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Violin with Percussion Orchestra (1950). It is also a companion to my own previous composition for percussion ensemble, El día de los muertos (2006). El día de los muertos and Xochiquetzal are both programmatic works based on Mexican subjects. Both contain folk melodies, and both may be performed with dancers.


Xochiquetzal was an ancient Mayan goddess associated with music, dance, beauty, love, fertility, and female sexual power. She is a similar figure to Aphrodite or Venus in Greek and Roman mythology. The name “Xochiquetzal” (So-chee-KET-sal) means “feather flower,” combining the Nahuatl words for “feather” (quetzal) and “flower” (xochitl). Xochiquetzal is always portrayed as young, beautiful and richly attired, accompanied by hummingbirds and surrounded by yellow marigolds. Marigolds were Xochiquetzal’s signature flower, and they were said to have sprung magically from her tears. Her consort was Tlaloc, the powerful and terrifying God of Thunder and Rain, with whom she had a tempestuous relationship.


To evoke the ancient Mayan world, I present simple pentatonic themes in the spirit of what Manuel de Falla called “imaginary folk music.” In the final movement, there is a quotation of “Xtoles” (Shi-TO-les), an ancient Mayan dance song notated by the Spaniards after the conquest of Mexico. Believed to be one of the oldest known melodies it also appears in my 2001 musical version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, set in pre-Columbian Mexico. These folk materials interact, and sometimes clash, with contemporary sounds to create a synthesis of time periods and cultures.


The violin solo represents Xochiquetzal throughout, and the writing is virtuosic with frequent multiple stops and extensive use of the upper register. The percussion scoring emphasizes pitched instruments (two vibraphones, two marimbas, crotales, glockenspiel, chimes, timpani, seven tuned roto-toms and six tuned nipple gongs) with a wide variety of exotic, non-pitched sounds. Each movement employs a distinctive timbre in keeping with its subject:


Xochiquetzal makes a graceful entrance, accompanied by bowed vibraphone and glass wind chimes to depict her retinue of hummingbirds; the music then grows more spirited to show her power. (II) A seductive, incantatory love spell follows with delicate nipple gongs, and the movement gradually builds in intensity. (III) Tlaloc then appears in an ominous and eventually violent Toccata featuring timpani, roto-toms, bass drum, tam-tam, thunder tube and thunder sheet. Following Tlaloc’s stormy visit, there is a mournful Adagio (IV), depicting Xochiquetzal’s tears, which are represented by crotales, glockenspiel, brass wind chimes, and gently rippling violin arpeggios. The Finale (V) is a rhythmic celebration of music and dance spiced with cow bells, temple blocks, and shakers and featuring a violin cadenza. The “Xtoles” melody joins the other themes, stacked together in a grand quodlibet.


I completed the score in Dallas in June, 2014 in response to a commission from a consortium of percussion ensembles from The New England Conservatory, Frank Epstein, Director; Southern Methodist University, Jon Lee, Director; The State University of New York at Onondaga, Robert Bridge, Director; and The University of North Texas, Christopher Deane, Director. Frank Epstein conducted the premiere performance in November, 2014 in Boston.


— Robert Xavier Rodríguez


The composer re-orchestrated the work for Chloé for violin soloist and piano reduction, which she will record this spring.


In addition to being a world-renown touring violin soloist, Chloé creates wonderfully humorous short videos on the life and work of musicians. The Adams State Percussion Ensemble was fortunate to star in her most recent video where we share the struggles of being a percussionist with impatient conductors. You can view the video here.


To learn more about Chloé and see her future performance dates, visit here website here.


Special thanks to Emily Johnson for tonight's light design, audio engineering, recording, and live streaming. 

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