The University of Michigan Percussion Program is one of the longest active and most successful university percussion programs in the country. With over 50 years of history, its faculty have included some of the field’s most outstanding teachers and its alumni continue to achieve success in all areas of the percussion world. Broad in its musical scope, the percussion program promotes a comprehensive approach which includes opportunities for study in numerous areas including: orchestral studies, contemporary solo and chamber playing, timpani, drum set, and world music. The percussion program and its artist faculty work to foster growth in the areas of performance, pedagogy, technology, composition/arranging, and improvisation in an effort to provide a comprehensive percussion education in response to the ever-changing demands of the 21st-century musical landscape.
The University of Michigan Percussion program is one of the longest active and most successful percussion programs in the country. With over 60 years of history, the program has featured some of the field’s most outstanding artist-teachers and our alumni continue to achieve success in all areas of the percussion world.
Percussion students at Michigan study and perform a broad range of instruments including: multi-percussion, mallet keyboards, snare drum, timpani, orchestral percussion, world percussion, and drum set, through solo repertoire, chamber repertoire and large-ensemble playing.
While the program offers a broad, comprehensive approach, we work to help each student discover their own unique artistic voice and encourage individual areas of interest and research. We are committed to supporting a curriculum which will help each of our students attain their individual professional goals.
In addition to a wide variety of performing experiences, at Michigan there are numerous ways to gain valuable expertise in the areas of pedagogy, composition & arranging, audio & video editing, as well as marketing and entrepreneurship. We encourage these pursuits and feel strongly that these skills, combined with a broad-based percussion education, are critical to succeeding as a 21st-century musician.
The University of Michigan Percussion Program is comprehensive in its scope and approach. We are extremely fortunate to have renowned faculty available to the students. Students have the option to study with any of the faculty at any point in their program.
Joseph Gramley, Associate Professor of Percussion, Director of Percussion Studies
Jonathan Ovalle, Assistant Professor of Percussion
Jeremy Epp, Lecturer of Percussion
Cary Kocher, Lecturer of Percussion
Tom Sherwood, Lecturer of Percussion
In the fall of 2015, the University of Michigan percussion program embarked on a new chapter in its storied history with the occupation of the percussion suite in the new Brehm Pavillion – a $24 million dollar addition to the Eero Saarinen designed E.V. Moore Building located on Michigan’s picturesque North Campus. The new percussion suite features twelve state-of-the-art acoustically isolated practice rooms, along with additional dedicated teaching studios, all with wide, 44″ doors. Additional spaces include a new acoustically-flexible large ensemble rehearsal space, a chamber music/percussion ensemble rehearsal room, dedicated storage/locker space for personal gear, as well as two large, dedicated multi percussion spaces where students can leave their set-ups intact for the duration of learning and performing a work. All practice rooms and teaching studios are also clustered together in close proximity to enhance the sense of community among percussionists. In addition to the percussion facilities, the E.V. Moore building houses two large rehearsal halls, three recital halls, classrooms, music library, and additional faculty studios.
The University of Michigan Percussion Program enjoys the use of one of the largest and finest inventories of percussion instruments in the country. We are fortunate to have an incredible diversity of impeccably maintained professional instruments.
Percussion Inventory at a glance (large instruments):
Marimbas (11) – Marimba One, Yamaha, Adams, Kori
Xylophones (8) – Musser, Deagan, Leedy, including vintage instruments
Vibraphones (7) – Yamaha, Musser, Adams
Glockenspiels (7) – Fall Creek (wide bar- extended range), Deagan (vintage) , Malletech
Timpani (8 sets) – Hinger Touch-Tone, Walter Light, Yamaha, Adams, Ludwig, as well as custom-built cable drums in 20″ and 34″ sizes
Snare Drums/Field Drums – numerous instruments including drums made by Pearl, Yamaha, Ludwig, Leedy, Hinger, Slingerland, Black Swamp
Drumsets (4) – Pearl & Yamaha Kits
Concert Bass Drums (10) – Reamer, Ludwig, Yamaha as well as smaller suspended “Abel” drums
Concert Toms – numerous complete full sets including: Pearl, Yamaha, Slingerland, Ludwig
Hardware – a wide assortment of including: Pearl, Yamaha, Ludwig, Slingerland, Gibralter rack system, speed rail, custom gong racks
Cymbals – a wide assortment of Sabian, Zildjian
Additional Specialized Inventory (abbreviated listing)
Various Taiko/Odaiko Drums, Chinese Toms
4.5 Octave rage of Paiste tuned gongs
Collection of various Thai gongs, cloud gongs
4.0 Octave range of chromatic tuned almglocken
A complete collection of Brazilian Instruments – various surdos, tambourims, shekeres, repeniques, pandieros, agogo bells
Full set of Equilibrium Chromatic Log Drums
Mannette Steel Drums (lead, double seconds, cello pans)
In addition to the requirements for our various degrees, the percussion program is also proud to offer supplemental courses to percussion students.
The University of Michigan Percussion Program is fortunate to be able to bring in a number of guest artists every year, allowing percussion students regular interaction and instruction from successful professionals in the field. Guest artist visits include everything from clinics, lessons, masterclasses, and soloist appearances with the percussion ensemble, to extended multi-day residencies.
Christopher Lamb – Principal Percussionist, New York Philharmonic (Clinic)
Tom Kolor – Solo Percussionist/ Talujon Percussion/ Univ. of Buffalo (Clinic/Recital)
NanaFormosa – Percussion Duo – Taiwan (Recital/Masterclass)
Nicholas Papador – Solo Percussionist/Noiseborder Ensemble/Univ. of Windsor (Recital/Clinic)
Ensemble Duniya – World Percussion Chamber Ensemble (Concert/Clinics)
Quey Percussion Duo – Gene Koshinski and Tim Broscious (Recital)
Yamakiya Taiko Ensemble – Fukishima, Japan (Masterclass)
Mike Truesdell – NYC Freelancer/Solo Percussionist (Clinic)
Jacob Nissly – Principal Percussionist, San Fransisco Symphony (Masterclass)
Yousif Sheronick – World Percussionist/ Ethos Percussion Group(Masterclass/Performance)
Mark Berry – Western Kentucky University/ Owner, Living Sound Triangles (Guest Lecture)
Aiyun Huang – Solo Percussionist/McGill University (Lecture/ Recital)
Steven Mackey – Princeton University (Guest Composer Residency)
Julie Spencer – International Marimba Soloist (Masterclass)
Pandit Samar Saha – Tabla Virtuoso (Masterclass)
Eric Schweikert- Principal Timpanist, Fort Wayne Philharmonic (Mock Audition)
George Nickson – Principal Percussionist, Sarasota Orchestra (Masterclass on Charles Wuorinen’s Jannisary Music)
David Locke – Tufts University/African Music Scholar (Ewe Drumming Workshop)
Mark Stone – Oakland University (Embaire Clinic/Lecture)
Brian DelSignore – Principal Percussionist, Houston Symphony (Clinic)
Clocks in Motion Percussion Group – (Concert and Career Discussion)
Christopher Lamb – Principal Percussionist, New York Philharmonic (Masterclass)
Sandeep Das, Shane Shanahan, Mark Suter – Silk Road Ensemble (Masterclass)
Jacob Nissly – Principal Percussionist, Cleveland Orchestra (Mock Audition)
Doug Perkins – Meehan/Perkins Duo, Multi-Percussionist (Masterclass)
Joe Becker – Principal Percussionist, Detroit Symphony Orchestra (Interview/ Discussion)
Salvatore Rabbio – Former Principal Timpanist, Detroit Symphony Orchestra (Masterclass and Lessons)
Mayumi Hama – International Marimba Soloist (Masterclass and Lessons)
Christopher Froh – Freelancer, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (Masterclass and Lessons)
Jim Casella & Murray Gusseck – Co-Founders, Tapspace Publications (Skype Masterclass)
Jason Markzon – Principal Percussionist, Fort Wayne Philharmonic (Mock Audition)
IKTUS Percussion – Guest Artist Concert
Fradreck Mujuru and Samuel Mujuru – Mbira Masters (Guest Masterclass/Performance)
Aly Keita – Balaphone Master (Masterclass/Performance)
Cynthia Yeh – Principal Percussionist, Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Masterclass & Group Lessons)
Jack Van Geem – Principal Percussionist, San Fransisco Symphony (Masterclass)
Trey Wyatt – Section Percussionist, San Fransisco Symphony (private lessons)
Eric Shin – Acting Principal Percussionist, Detroit Symphony Orchestra (Orchestral Mock Audition)
Rony Barrak – Darrabuka Virtuoso (Masterclass)
Alexander Radziewski – Timpanist, Hamburg Philharmonic (Masterclass)
Mantra Percussion (NYC) – Michigan Premiere performance of Michael Gordon’s TIMBER (Performance and workshop)
Eric Schweikert – Acting Principal Timpanist – Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Clocks in Motion Percussion Group – complete performance of Xenakis’ Pleadies
Dan Piccolo – Freelancer, Percussion Director – Pioneer High School, Ann Arbor (“Split finger Technique” Frame Drum Clinic)
Dr. Kwasi Ampene (former Professor of Ethnomusicology -U. of Colorado, current director of UM Center for World Performance Studies with Kwame Owusu, Lucas Kumah, and Kofi Atta – former members of the Ghana National Dance Company
Alan Abel – Former Percussionist, Philadelphia Orchestra – Emeritus, Temple University (Charles Owen Memorial Residency)
Gwen Burgett Thrasher – Michigan State University and Ayano Kataoka University of Massachusets (Duo Recital)
Shannon Wood – Principal Timpanist, Grand Rapids Symphony (Masterclass)
Payton MacDonald – Percussionist, Alarm Will Sound, Marimba and Super Marimba artist (Masterclass and Performances)
Due East – flute and percussion duo (Masterclass and Recital)
Mark Stone – Biyakuye, Oakland University (Fontonfrom Drumming Masterclass)
Trey Wyatt and David Herbert – San Francisco Symphony
Ya-Chi Cheng – San Antonio Symphony
Pandit Samar Saha – tabla
Anthony DiSanza – University of Wisconsin-Madison
Keith Terry – body percussionist
Spectrum Trio – World Percussion Performance
Haruka, Rika, and Mutsuko Fujii – marimbists
Sao Paulo University Percussion Ensemble
Gareth Farr – composer
Markus Rhoten and Daniel Druckman – New York Philharmonic
Daniel Bauch – Boston Symphony Orchestra
Bob Becker – NEXUS
Anthony Di Sanza – University of Wisconsin-Madison
Mark Stone – Oakland University, Steel Pan
Biakuye – African Music and Dance Ensemble
Mark Suter – Silk Road Ensemble
Doug Walter – University of Colorado-Boulder
Ken Wolin – Percussionist, President’s Own Marine Band
Christopher Deviney – Principal Percussionist, Philadelphia Orchestra (Residency – Charles Owen Memorial Masterclass)
Evelyn Glennie – International Percussion Soloist (Masterclass, clinics, and film screening)
Filippo Lattanzi – Marimbist (clinic)
Ft. Lewis College Percussion Ensemble – American Gamelan concert
Matthew Duvall – Percussionist, Eighth Blackbird (Residency)
Michael Spiro – World Percussionist (Residency – lessons, clinic, and performance)
David Herbert – Principal Timpanist, San Francisco Symphony (Masterclass)
Alan Abel – Philadelphia Orchestra, Emeritus (residency – lessons, masterclass, and soloist with Percussion Ensemble)
Russel Hartenberger – NEXUS and Steve Reich Ensemble (residency – lessons, masterclass)
Nebojsa Zivkovic – International Percussion Artist (marimba clinic/masterclass)
Norbert Goldberg – Broadway Percussionist & LP Percussion Clinician (Clinic on Afro-Cuban and Brazilian Percussion)
Pius Cheung and Eriko Daimo – Marimba Duo (week-long residency, lessons, masterclass, concert, and recording with students)
Mayumi Hama and Christopher Froh (week-long residency, lessons, masterclass, alumni concert and CD Recording)
Ian Ding – Detroit Symphony Orchestra (Guest Performance with Percussion Ensemble)
Anthony Orlando – Percussionist, Philadelphia Orchestra (Charles Owen Memorial Masterclass)
Jim Atwood – Timpanist, Louisiana Philharmonic
Michael Colgrass – Composer/PercussionistDeviney
William Cahn (NEXUS) and Ruth Cahn (Eastman)
Payton MacDonald – Alarm Will Sound (clinic and performance)
Dr. Will Rapp cymbal clinic
Brian Jones – Principal Timpanist, Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Christopher Hardy and Shoko Araya
Nick Petrella – Director of Education, Sabian Cymbals
Neil Grover – Formerly of the Boston Symphony, Founder of Grover Percussion Products
Raynor Carroll – Principal Percussionist, Los Angeles Philarmonic
Michael Crusoe – Principal Timpanist, Seattle Symphony
Thomas V. Siwe – Guest Conductor with Percussion Ensemble
Roland Vazquez – Guest Composer/Performer
Don S. Liuzzi – Principal Timpanist – Philadelphia Orchestra
Katarzyna Mycka – International Marimba Soloist
Linda Maxey – Solo Marimbist
Janis Potter – Solo Marimbist
Tomoko Azuma (marimbist) (Soloist with Percussion Ensemble)
Brian Zator – marimbist (Soloist with Percussion Ensemble)
Mark Berry – guest conductor of Percussion Ensemble
Jonathan Ovalle – guest conductor and marimba soloist with the Percussion Ensemble
Mark Griffith – Guest Conductor
Brian Bevelander – Guest Composer
John Polito II – Guest Composer
John Alfieri – Interlochen Arts Academy
Christopher Hardy and Shoko Araya (Chris and Shoko Percussion Duo)
Ben Johnston – Guest Composer
Doug Walter – University of Colorado-Boulder
Trey Wyatt (marimba) soloist with Percussion Ensemble
Alan Abel (Philadelphia Orchestra) Charles Owen Memorial Masterclass and recital
Percussion Art Quartet: Wurzburg
Bruce Chaffin (xylophone)
Salvatore Rabbio (timpani)
Stephen Shipps (violin)
Michael Kowalski – guest composer
Ted Piltzecker – guest composer
Eleanor Duncan Armstrong (Flute) and Daniel Armstrong (The Armstrong Flute and Percussion Duo)
Michael Bookspan – Principal Percussionist, Philadelphia Orchestra (The Charles E. Owen Inaugural Memorial Master Class)
What do you think sets the U-M Percussion Program apart from others?
A few reasons, actually.
#1) Our graduates.
A consistent and demonstrated history of student success. Our graduates have consistently entered the field (in all areas), have made meaningful impacts and achieved sustained success. View the “alumni” page for a comprehensive listing of U-M Percussion graduates.
#2) Our facilities and equipment.
Our brand-new percussion facility has few, if any peers. Twelve acoustically-isolated, locked, dedicated practice rooms for percussionists, including dedicated multi-percussion space, chamber music rehearsal space and additional locker/storage space. These percussion practice rooms are all clustered together which helps to promote an atmosphere of community and support. Our equipment inventory is one of the best in the world. A vast array of both new and vintage instruments are available for students’ use so they can make the best sounds they can on the best equipment.
#3) The studio “vibe.”
We value teamwork and collaboration and work hard to accept students that are not only great musicians, but also great artist-colleagues. Like any program, there is always peer-to-peer competition, but at Michigan there is a distinct environment of shared ideas, working together, and peer-to-peer sharing and collaborating. The interaction between percussionists is very positive and can often be a significant supplemental part of a students’ education outside of their weekly private lessons with their professor.
#4) Personal Attention.
The ability for each student to find a their own artistic voice and explore areas of personal interest. We featured a broad-based curriculum, but every student is unique in their artistic interests and career goals. We work hard to create an environment where individual areas of interest can be explored and fostered. This diversity of personalities and musical interests is also what helps create a very engaging studio environment.
#5) Our Faculty.
Our faculty are all active performers, connecting students to a 21st century performing world.
How many percussion majors are in the U-M Percussion Program and what is the breakdown of their degree programs?
Currently (2017-18) there are 27 students in the U-M percussion program — BM: 19, MM: 7, DMA: 1.
What is the difference between a “university” music school like Michigan versus that of a conservatory?
As far as curriculum is concerned, none. The performance opportunities and degree requirements are at their base, exactly the same as a conservatory. Michigan however, has the ability to offer additional performing opportunities not offered at other top schools. In particular, our world percussion offerings are comprehensive in scope and invigorating in practice. Also, our collaborations with performing arts technology and musical theatre give real-world experiential learning opportunities to our students. The U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, is a high-level conservatory environment, but with the additional advantages of being housed within one of the world’s leading research institutions. The school’s setting as a part of a leading university adds to the complete student experience. Students have access to a conservatory curriculum, yet also are able to take advantage of limitless academic opportunities in addition to numerous other resources (international study/travel support, a professional audio and video recording studio, and other research/collaborative opportunities, etc.)
Do students study any world percussion?
YES.The study of world percussion is an important part of our curriculum. The World Percussion Ensemble, is co-directed by Professors Ovalle and Gramley with the assistance of a dedicated graduate student instructor. The World Percussion Ensemble focuses its efforts on a multiple-semester rotation of content that currently includes Afro-Cuban popular music, Caribbean Steel Band and West African styles. Students are required to roatate through all content areas. Separate from the World Percussion Ensemble, the Brazilian Ensemble – Vencedores – is a high-energy samba batteria and is another world percussion performance opportunity for percussion students. The Brazilian Ensemble is student-led, and performs frequently at events both on and off campus.
What opportunities are there as a percussionist for chamber music playing? Both percussion chamber music and mixed chamber music.
We value the importance of chamber playing and chamber musicianship. There are always plentiful opportunities for chamber playing in the U-M Percussion ensemble and we are always programming chamber percussion repertoire. Because of the vast number of high-quality students in all the piano, vocal and instrumental studios, opportunities for mixed-chamber collaborations are numerous and there is a plethora of top-notch players of which to collaborate with. Aside from many student-led chamber opportunities, the Contemporary Directions Ensemble is the university’s resident new-music ensemble and offers opportunities for graduate students to engage in contemporary mixed-chamber playing. Prof. Freda Herseth teaches a vocal chamber music class that offers percussionists chance to explore and perform a unique body of vocal chamber repertoire. The orchestra and wind conducting programs at SMTD are two of the top programs in the country and attract top-flight students every year. All conducting students in these programs have to give recitals and often are programming chamber repertoire. Often these pieces need percussionists – another opportunity for percussionists to perform mixed chamber music. Lastly, the composition department is also one of the best in the country. Once a month there is a student composers concert where percussionists for new chamber pieces are always needed. In addition to a chamber performance opportunity these concerts also offer a collaborative opportunity with a composer as well.
How many concerts does the percussion ensemble give?
On the average, the ensemble performs 4 concerts per year, with some of those concerts off-campus. Recent venues have included the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art – Detroit. (MoCAD) as well as a live webcast from the headquarters of Black Swamp Percussion.
What is the audition process for the bands and orchestras?
There are two bands (Symphony Band, Concert Band) and two orchestras (University Symphony Orchestra, University Philharmonia.) Each semester, percussion students prepare a list of both percussion and timpani excerpts and participate in a screened audition for the percussion faculty and conductors. The auditions usually takes place in late August for the fall semester and in December for the winter semester. Sections are rotated and re-auditioned each semester.
Do graduate students have a better opportunity for ensemble placement?
Because the audition is behind a screen, identities are concealed, thus creating a level playing field between all players. Placement is solely based on the students’ preparation and success at the audition each term. First year undergrads earn their place by virtue of the quality of their work, and are not pre-placed in any ensemble.
How are parts assigned in the Orchestras and Concert Bands?
Parts are assigned by the conductors in wind ensembles in coordination with Professors Gramley, and by Professor Ovalle in coordination with the conductors in orchestras.
Do undergraduates ever take lessons from graduate students?
NO. Undergraduate percussion majors are always assigned to study with a professor their entire 4-year residency. This is unique to our program as many other programs have undergraduate percussionists studying with graduate students up to 50% of their lesson time. Students are always assigned to one, or a combination, of our five principal percussion faculty. Having talented and experienced Masters and Doctoral level students is, however, another great tool for learning at the U-M. Our undergraduate students can use these graduates as a resource as needed and perform with them in large ensembles and Chamber Music Ensembles.
What teaching opportunities are there for graduate students?
As mentioned above, unlike many other institutions, graduate students are not assigned undergraduate students to teach. We feel this is a tremendous advantage for undergraduates who are always assigned to a major professor throughout their undergraduate residency. However, gaining teaching experience as a graduate student is important and something we value as a program. Some of the teaching opportunities a graduate student can participate in include coaching the U-M percussion ensemble, teaching non-major private lessons and coaching the youth percussion ensemble, iMpact!. There are also a number of schools in the Ann Arbor area and within a 30min drive that can provide contacts for graduate students to find additional private students. For two of the three graduate assistantship positions, teaching is a major component as well. The Music Education Percussion Methods GSI (graduate student instructor) is responsible for teaching the percussion methods class to non-percussionist music education majors, and the World Percussion GSI position is responsible for teaching the world percussion ensemble and assisting with additional semesters of the class under Professors Gramley and Ovalle.
Are there graduate assistantships available?
YES. We have three graduate assistantship positions (GSI’s – graduate student instructors) in the percussion studio which can be held by either masters or doctoral students. With these positions tuition is fully funded and students also receive a stipend. One is a percussion equipment/logistics position (called the Percussion Manager”) who’s responsibility is to manage equipment for the large ensembles and to coordinate equipment moves out of the building for large ensemble concerts. This position may only be held by a second-year graduate student. Another GSI position is the world percussion GSI who’s responsibility is to instruct the World Percussion Ensemble and/or Brazilian Ensemble in their area of expertise and assist with other semesters under Professors Gramley and Ovalle. The third GSI position is responsible for managing and instructing the Percussion Methods class to non-percussionist music education majors.
What recitals are students required to complete?
All undergrad percussion majors are required to complete their Senior Recital after playing the repertoire for the percussion faculty in a hearing. Students are also encouraged to play a Junior Recital which can be a full or half-recital. Often, students give non-degree recitals as sophomores or even freshmen.
Master’s percussion majors are required one graduation recital. DMA performance majors are required three full recitals.
Do guest artists frequently come to your studio?
YES. The U-M Percussion Program is fortunate to be able to connect students with successful professionals in all areas of the percussion field. The program has a great history of bringing top-tier artists to our campus for masterclasses and performances every semester. We generally host numerous visiting artists every academic year. These guests can be related to a presentation with the University Musical Society (such as New York Philhamonic Principal Percussionist, Christopher Lamb in 2013 and San Francisco Symphony Principal Percussionist, Jack Van Geem in 2012) or as a special guest of the Percussion Program, such as Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Percussionist Chris Deviney in 2008, and Afro-Cuban specialist Michael Spiro, also in 2008.
Do students take courses in other areas or complete minors/double majors in other areas?
YES. Because the SMTD is housed within a leading academic institution, one of the benefits is that its academic curricular offerings are immense and varied. There are a myriad of options for our students to pursue any number of interests. In any given year, we may have one or two students studying under the BMA degree program. Others might be pursuing a dual degree in one of the many degree offerings of this fine Institution. For more information, see program descriptions, dual degrees, and LSA minors.
Do many students participate in other ensembles such as marching bands, jazz ensembles, etc?
YES. Marching band is an option for the large ensemble curriculum. Additionally, some students participate in both marching band and an orchestra or wind ensemble. Jazz Lab Ensemble conflicts only with Symphony Band, so it may be an option for some students. Many percussion students have participated in jazz combos.
Are percussion majors required to participate in marching band?
NO. There is no requirement for percussionists to participate in marching band. This includes those who are on scholarship as well. Marching band is one of the many ensemble options available to percussion majors, but is not a requirement.
Are Music Education majors given the same opportunities as performance majors?
YES. Music Education majors are given exactly the same opportunities as performance majors. This includes lessons and all performing ensembles.
What sort of scholarship opportunities are there available?
Your financial aid/scholarship award is often a complex package that includes any merit-based award as well as other assistance which can come in the form of an academic scholarship, grants, other other aid. Once you have completed an audition if you are being recommended for a scholarship based on your audition performance, that award can be combined with additional funding that comes from the Office of Financial Aid. In all cases, the best possible package is is put together for each student that takes into consideration merit-based aid and the student’s demonstrated financial need.
For sixty years, the University of Michigan percussion program has occupied a significant place in American music education. Its faculty has included some of the field’s most outstanding teachers, and its alumni have achieved success in all areas of percussion performance, pedagogy, research and composition.
The percussion program was born under the leadership of James Salmon* in 1954. A Michigan alumnus and active performer in the Chicago music scene, Salmon was renowned for both his teaching gifts and his writings on percussion. It was during his tenure that he founded the University of Michigan Percussion Ensemble, which gave its first performance in 1958.
In 1968, Salvatore Rabbio*, longtime principal timpanist with the Detroit Symphony, joined the faculty, adding his expertise to that of Mr. Salmon’s and starting a relationship between the percussion program and the Detroit Symphony that would continue long into the future. Following James Salmon, in 1972, Charles Owen* was named Professor of Percussion at Michigan. Owen made his name as the timpanist and mallet keyboard soloist with the U.S. Marine Band from 1934 to 1954 and then later as the principal percussionist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, under Eugene Ormandy, a position he held for 18 years. Professor Owen’s artistic inspiration continued to motivate the strong work of the U-M Percussion Ensemble, and the group recorded its first two albums, in 1975 and 1981. Owen was known as an inspirational teacher and a source of encouragement to both his colleagues and the many percussionists who studied with him. His legacy continues through the Owen Memorial Master Class Fund, which brings a guest artist to campus for an extended period each year. The James D. Salmon and Charles E. Owen Percussion Scholarships also honor the legacy of these two outstanding teachers and recognize their significant place in the history of the Michigan percussion program.
In 1982, Michael Udow** took the reins of the program for a tenure that would last 27 years. A founding member of the pioneering Blackearth percussion group, and the longtime principal percussionist for the Santa Fe Opera, Udow was known as an outstanding performer, composer, and teacher. Under his direction, the percussion ensemble quickly gained an international reputation for its numerous recordings and performances with renowned soloists and ensembles around the world. During his tenure at Michigan, the percussion ensemble was featured at multiple PASIC conventions, toured Japan and Taiwan, and performed in New York’s Alice Tully Hall and Merkin Hall. Timpanist, Salvatore Rabbio continued to teach as a member of the percussion faculty during these years, along with a number of adjunct professors, which included marimba virtuoso, Julie Spencer, and jazz vibist, Ted Piltzecker. Additional former adjunct faculty include composer/percussionist, Warren Benson, and Sousa Band percussionist, John Heney.
In 1995, drumset artist and U-M alumnus, Gerald Cleaver, was called on for his teaching and performance expertise serving as Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies from 1995-2000. A Detroit native, Cleaver has been mainstay of the New York jazz scene since 2002 and has made his name performing with artists such as Roscoe Mitchell, Miroslav Vitous, Yaron Herman and Ralph Allesi, among others.
In 1998, Michael Gould was added to the faculty as a second full-time artist/teacher of percussion and who now continues to teach as a member of the UM jazz faculty and as a faculty member of the UM Residential College primarily mentoring jazz majors in drumset study. Also in 1998, Salvatore Rabbio, the longtime timpanist for the Detroit Symphony retired after 40 years of service to the orchestra and along with his retirement from the orchestra retired from his position at Michigan. A native of Boston, Rabbio returned home to the east coast and continues to teach and mentor young students while continuing to maintain a national profile with PASIC clinic appearances most recently, in 2010.
Following in the footsteps of Salvatore Rabbio came Brian Jones who won the Principal Timpanist chair for the Detroit Symphony in 1998. Jones, a native of Texas, studied at the University of North Texas where he was a member of the renown “One O’Clock Lab Band” and later at Temple University where he studied under Alan Abel. Following his Detroit Symphony appointment, in 2001 Brian Jones began teaching as Associate Adjunct Professor of Percussion working with students in private percussion and timpani lessons as well as teaching the orchestral repertoire class. His inspired playing, teaching, and mentoring of UM percussion students continued until his departure to take the Principal Timpanist chair in the Dallas Symphony, in fall 2011.
Brian Jones’ colleague at the Detroit Symphony, percussionist Ian Ding, joined the faculty in 2005 and shared his expertise with U-M Percussion students until 2014, teaching lessons and teaching the orchestral repertoire class. Ian’s experience as an orchestral artist as well his experience as a performer of contemporary solo and chamber repertoire, made him a valuable and unique asset to the percussion program’s stellar faculty. Ian continues to be an active performer and currently resides in Chicago, IL.
In 2007, following a major national search, Professor Joseph Gramley was hired to serve as coordinator of the percussion program and director of the percussion ensemble. Known for his dynamic solo playing, his experience as both a soloist and as a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble added a new dimension to the program’s already diverse offerings. Also in 2007, vibist and drummer, Cary Kocher, was added to the Michigan percussion faculty mentoring students in the area of jazz vibraphone and improvisation.
In November of 2009, Professor Michael Udow announced his retirement from Michigan, effective Fall 2010. Professor Udow gave the University of Michigan nearly three decades of leadership, artistry, and pedagogy as attentive as it was inspred. Under his tutelage, he has trained hundreds of musicians and teachers and, through his own compositions, has been a major force in the expansion of percussion’s canon and general presence in the musical world. Following Michael Udow’s retirement, in 2011 another national search was conducted, culminating in the hire of Professor Jonathan Ovalle.
Beginning in 2014, two new artist-teachers joined the percussion faculty as Lecturers of Percussion. Eric Schweikert, Principal Timpanist of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and Joe Becker, the recently appointed Principal Percussionist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Both teach private lessons as well as orchestral rep class.
As proud alumni of the percussion program themselves, both Professors Gramley and Ovalle are dedicated to honoring the program’s history, artistic legacy and maintaining the high standards set by their predecessors. Their current work is focused on preparing percussionists for the ever-changing demands of the 21st-century music world. Their dedication to teaching, performance, and research is making a new mark on the program as it grows and pushes forward into a new chapter in it’s storied history.
*Member of the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame
**Awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Education from the Percussive Arts Society (2010)