Percussion ensemble showcases unique instruments

By: 

Lifestyle Reporter
Students perform April 10 during the BFA Senior Thesis concert in Evans Auditorium.

Members of the Percussion Ensemble and Panorama Steel Band showcased their talents in an end-of-the-year performance April 13 through April 15 in Evans Auditorium.

Genaro Gonzalez, professor in the School of Music and percussion coordinator, said students developed the performance pieces throughout the semester.

There were two performances separated by an intermission: one by a percussion ensemble and another by the Panorama Steel Band.

Gonzalez said the percussion ensemble features eight students, primarily music majors, ranging from freshmen to seniors.

“The percussion ensemble plays a lot of different instruments,” Gonzalez said. “They play the marimbas, xylophones, battery percussion instruments, including tambourines and symbols, and a drum set.”

The Panorama Steel Band includes students from a variety of majors, Gonzalez said.

“We have people that aren’t music majors in the steel band,” Gonzalez said. “Basically everyone starts from a beginner standpoint with the steel drums, and they learn how to play in the class.”

Gonzalez said steel drums like those used in the performance were invented using empty oil barrels in Trinidad on a naval base after World War II. From there, they slowly evolved into today’s instruments.

“There are different types of steel drums,” Gonzalez said. “The bass drums are full 55-gallon oil drums. The very highest-pitch drums are called the lead pans, which are cut much narrower in depth.”

Gonzalez said steel drums are uncommon, but audiences tend to enjoy their distinct sound.

“For someone that’s never heard the steel drums, I’d describe it as very happy-sounding music,” Gonzalez said. “It makes people smile. A lot of the pieces are dance-type pieces.”

Nick Tozzo, music graduate student, joined the band in 2007 while earning his bachelor’s degree in music and returned to play later.

“It’s fun music,” Tozzo said. “I have my own steel drums, and I play professionally on the side. So an ensemble like this that practices three times a week gives me a good chance to hone my skills.”

Members of the steel band wore Hawaiian-style shirts during the showcase. Tozzo said the unconventional style has been a tradition for years.

 “For regular percussion ensemble bands, everyone wears all black,” Tozzo said. “The Panorama Steel Band has worn Hawaiian shirts during performances since the band started 25 years ago. It goes with the feel of the music.”

Christine Acebo, music senior, chose to attend the concert because of her passion for percussion.

Acebo said the performance was a positive experience. She plans to attend music events in the future.

“I really liked the marimbas, and ‘Unleash the Fury’ was my favorite piece,” Acebo said. “I am really looking forward to the next performance because the steel drums are my favorite instrument.”