Afro-Cuban music highlighted by ensemble

Katja Benz, Campus Reporter

The Percussion Ensemble held their first concert of the season Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theater of the Doudna Fine Arts Center.

The ensemble is directed by Professor Jamie V. Ryan, associate professor of percussion.

The ensemble opened their season to a full house. This was their first live performance since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

However, the ensemble held performances virtually during the 2020-2021 performance season,.

Ryan said he was happy to be back performing in front of an audience.

“Yeah, it feels pretty great,” Ryan said. “We did perform our regular concerts last year, just we had no audience. Of course, most of the other groups last year performed outside. At least the percussion students were able to continue to play this kind of music and get playing experience together, but it’s much better with an audience so that they can feel the pressure and overcome it.”

Cheyenne Brinker, who graduated with a master’s degree in music performance last year and is a member of the ensemble, said she felt energy from the audience, especially after the virtual season.

“I felt amazing,” Brinker said. “That was awesome. It just heightened the energy that much more because we weren’t sure what to expect since this is our first concert back and it was an amazing experience.”

There are six performers in the ensemble, including Brinker. She said she thought the performance went really well, especially for a small group.

“Tonight, we were really in tune with each other and moving with each other. We were really listening and taking into account what everybody is doing at every single moment tonight,” Brinker said.

Tuesday’s concert featured Afro-Cuban music, as well as various chamber pieces. Some instruments included were various drums, bells, marimbas and vibraphones, which the audience sat around. Some of the songs included singing as well.

When thinking of music to pick for this concert, Ryan said he chose pieces that he thought were underrepresented.

“First of all, for the last several semesters, and for the foreseeable future, I’ve been focused on programming music of the African diaspora because that music is not well represented in this kind of institution,” Ryan said. “It’s also a major area of study, research and performance for myself. So, I think that depth of experience for me translates into a really good experience for the students musically, rhythmically and especially culturally. The other sort of chamber music, I have in past semesters and for the foreseeable future been emphasizing non-white, non-male composers, especially black and brown composers, LGBTQ composers and there’s so much music from these communities that we have neglected for decades. I see no need to really program the music of white male composers anymore.”

The music throughout the performance had intense drumming, as well as a number of performers in each song. One of the songs had performers change mid-song.

The next performance in the Doudna Fine Arts Center is the Rolston String Quartet performance, which will take place Friday.

The performance will be held in the recital hall at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for students are $10, tickets for faculty are $15 and tickets for the public are $20. This performance is open to the public.

Katja Benz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].