NIU set to offer up plenty of percussive entertainment this weekend

By Katie Finlon

Percussion enthusiasts at NIU, this weekend’s for you.

Many percussion events will occur this weekend in the Music Building, including Percussion x Percussion and performances by the NIU Steel Band and NIU Percussion Ensemble.

Percussion professor Greg Beyer said that, while instruments such as the violin have a select style of playing, percussion instruments have more options available musically.

“A percussion instrument is sort of like Joseph Campbell’s A Hero with a Thousand Faces,” Beyer said. “It crops up all over the world—percussion instruments are ubiquitous—but they are decisively and entirely different in every culture.”

Percussion x Percussion, a performance that features pieces written by percussion students, begins at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Recital Hall.

Brian Wach, junior percussion performance major, came up with the concept after he performed pieces of his own, and he wanted to hear what his fellow percussionists wrote as well.

“For me, it’s sort of like a celebration of the creativity around me,” Wach said.

The featured composers are Beyer, NIU alumna Angela Kepley and percussion students Wach, Matthew Judson, Todd Jelinek, Jonny Gifford, Alexis Lamb and Ovell Landers. Nine original compositions will be performed, and within the nine compositions are four world premieres.

Following Percussion x Percussion is NIU Steel Band’s concert, which is at 3 p.m. on Sunday in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall.

The steel band, directed by assistant professor Liam Teague and musical instrument technician Cliff Alexis, is comprised of a variety of steel pans, ranging from soprano pan to bass pan.

Christina Guerrero, steel pan graduate student and member of the NIU Steel Band, said the band plays a variety of musical styles and there’s something for everyone in this concert.

“We try to showcase the versatility of this instrument by performing various genres of music ranging from calypsos to classical works,” Guerrero said. “We try to make sure people know this instrument is serious and legitimate in the music world, just as a violin or flute is.”

Finally, the NIU Percussion Ensemble will hold its concert at 8 p.m. Monday in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall.

Everything from John Cage to ragtime pieces to music from Cuba will be part of the ensemble’s program, and the ensemble is comprised of all percussion instruments, including standard drums and keyboard instruments like marimba and prepared piano.

“Percussion Ensemble is exploring all those genres in a group setting of just percussion players,” Wach said.

All in all, this weekend of percussion is about showcasing the versatility of percussion and putting it into its many different contexts,

“I feel incredibly fortunate to be overseeing this department that’s full of student musicians that are doing really good things,” Beyer said. “I’m very proud of them.”

The NIU Steel Band and NIU Percussion Ensemble concerts will be webcasted at