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Our first Grammy Award!

We are honored and humbled to have won this year’s Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music/ Small Ensemble Performance, for our album Third Coast Percussion | Steve Reich, released on Cedille Records.

This is our first Grammy win, and it was our first nomination. This is also the first time a percussion ensemble has won a Grammy in a Chamber Music category. Our crazy art form has come a long way, and we’re so thankful to our colleagues in the percussion field, our teachers, and all of the great percussion ensembles that have come before us for elevating this music that we love so much.

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We also had the incredible honor of sharing the stage with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, who performed with us on the third movement Steve Reich’s Mallet Quartet at the live Grammy pre-telecast performance. It was an unforgettable experience to perform with this exceptional musician.

Click here or on the image below to watch the video of the performance.

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Ravi is not only a phenomenal musician, he is a humble, down-to-earth guy who was an absolute pleasure to work with and hang with.

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We were fortunate to have our partners, family, our intrepid Managing Director, Liz, and some of our fantastic board of directors with us in L.A. for the festivities. We wouldn’t be where we are without them…plus they look good, don’t they?

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We also want to thank the incredible team that put this album together: producer, editor, mix, and master by Jesse Lewis, engineer Dan Nichols, assistant engineer Matt Ponio, and additional mastering by Kyle Pyke. Our amazing guest pianists David Friend and Oliver Hagen joined us on Sextet, and our mentor and friend Matthew Duvall joined us on Music for Pieces of Wood. Cedille Records was an absolute pleasure to work with throughout the project. The album was recorded at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, our home-away-from-home. Our managing director, Liz Pesnel, put forth an incredible effort towards this whole project, THANK YOU LIZ! And we also want to shout out our friends and neighbors Sonnenzimmer for the incredible album artwork.

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Oh yeah and it turns out we weren’t the only Chicago musicians at the Grammys.

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Announcing our 2017/18 Emerging Composers Partnership Collaborators

Please join us in congratulating Ayanna Woods and Timothy Page, the two composers selected for our 2017/18 Emerging Composers Partnership! We will be collaborating with both Ayanna and Timothy to create new works by each, which will premiere next season. Read more about these incredible music makers below, and click their names above to hear some of their music.

We received 190 applications for the partnership this year, more than twice the number we received last year! Applications were sent from over a dozen countries on 5 continents. We were all blown away by the sheer quantity of excellent music that is being created today. Thank you to everyone who submitted their music and ideas this year.

The deadline for submissions to the next round of the program (projects to be completed in the 2018/19 season) will be October 31, 2017.

Ayanna Woods

Ayanna Woods is a composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist from Chicago, IL. She recently earned her BA in music at Yale University, where she studied composition with Andy Akiho, Kathryn Alexander and Konrad Kaczmarek. Woods’ pieces have been performed by the Wet Ink Ensemble, the Chicago Children’s Choir, and the Nightingale Trio (a Balkan singing group), among others. Her music explores the spaces between acoustic and electronic, traditional and esoteric, wildly improvisational and mathematically rigorous. Currently, Woods is writing works on the theme of peace for the Chicago Children’s Choir and its alumni, and scoring a short film.

Timothy Page

Chicago-born composer, musician, and performance artist Timothy Page creates works that revolve around play with style and context, body, physical materials, and space. After a brief career in physics, Page left the U.S. for Finland to study composition with Veli-Matti Puumala at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. He wound up putting down roots for nearly a decade, establishing himself in the Nordic contemporary music scene with performances and commissions throughout Scandinavia and Europe. He has worked with many of the leading Nordic ensembles and represented Finland around the world in festivals such as Nordic Music Days, ISCM, NYCEMF, ICMC, June in Buffalo, and Ostrava Days. In 2013 he returned to Chicago to pursue a PhD program in composition at University of Chicago, where he has studied with Augusta Read Thomas and Anthony Cheung. His work has recently taken a performative turn – but even at its most theatrical, it is typified by a primacy of sound and a preoccupation with rhythm.

Third Coast Percussion’s Emerging Composers Partnership is made possible by generous underwriting provided by Louise K. Smith, Cindy Sargent, and the Sargent Family Foundation.

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Photos from our Europe Tour

Here’s a bunch of pictures from our recent tour in Poland and the Netherlands.

Wroclaw, Poland

Nice to feel welcomed!

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The National Forum of Music, Wroclaw

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wroclaw family show

Family show. These kids are super-impressed that we can (sort of) count to 5 in Polish.

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Wild Sound! foto © Bogusław Beszłej/Archiwum NFM

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foto © Bogusław Beszłej/Archiwum NFM

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foto © Bogusław Beszłej/Archiwum NFM

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Packed house! foto © Bogusław Beszłej/Archiwum NFM

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We’ll autograph anything!

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These little guys are all around the city.

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Khinkali are the soup dumplings of eastern Europe.

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Paczkis are for real!

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Rotterdam, Netherlands

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Good sign- this is the first thing we see when we exit the train station!

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De Doelen at night

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Sound check

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They call it the “Red Sofa Series.”

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Kapsalon was the stage crew’s recommendation for post-concert food. It’s Schwarma over french fries. Luckily there’s that lettuce on top.

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Rotterdam has some amazing architecture…

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including these crazy cube apartments,

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which you can take a tour of,

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and all sorts of great art,

 

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like these clowns at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

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This one speaks for itself.

Market

The massive Market Hall is also pretty amazing.

 

Cross-Linx Festival: Eindhoven, Amsterdam, Rotterdam (again), Groningen

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We’re in the first line of fine print. First line!

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NWA

Again, speaks for itself.

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Killer venue in Amsterdam!

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Awesome to see Andrew Bird play live, along with the rest of a great festival line up!

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You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten some sort of hot breaded thing from a vending wall.

Glenn Groningen

Glenn Kotche during our set in Groningen. foto © Knelis

Groningen show

Serious lighting for our show. foto © Knelis

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TCP10: Game-changing Moments

Third Coast Percussion’s growth over the last 10 years has been pretty organic, but there have been a few landmark moments along the way when things really jumped up a notch. This month, we’re taking a look back at those big moments in TCP history.

Fall 2005: TCP has its first meeting with Augusta Read Thomas, to talk about how to go about commissioning composers. The group was just getting started, and we knew we wanted to get composers to write new works for us, but had no idea how to go about making that happen. We knew Augusta from Northwestern– she was on the composition faculty while we were all students there– and she was kind enough to meet with us to talk about the commissioning process. She asked us “are you guys a 501(c)3?” and we said “what’s that?”. We learned a whole lot that day, including how we would need to fundraise to support major commissioning projects. She also gave us some ideas of how to commission some younger composers in the mean time, which helped us launch our first commissioning project. The conversation went well beyond just commissioning, and helped us begin to understand what it would take to be a successful chamber ensemble. We had no idea at that time what an important collaborator, advocate, and friend Augusta would be for years to come!

February 2006: TCP plays a show at the Neo-futurarium Theater in Chicago. This was the first show where we really thought about the total concert experience, beyond the repertoire and performance. We thought about the stage set-up, lighting, and how to go seamlessly from piece to piece without moving instruments. It was a really positive performance experience for us, and we also learned some important lessons, like: you need liability insurance to self-present in a rented theater, and percussion quartets should try to avoid performing in second floor venues with no elevator.

Summer/Fall 2006: TCP gets its first professional recording, press kit, website and logo. A fellow NU alum named Ethelbert Williams saw some of our early shows, and was excited about what we were doing artistically, but thought we could use some help on the marketing and PR side of things. He graciously offered to help out, connecting us with a graphic designer and photographer, and helping us organize everything we needed to present a professional face to presenters, venues, and the press. Ethelbert is still on Third Coast Percussion’s board of directors today, and has continued to be a great advocate and supporter of our organization. These couple of months yielded our first EP recording, Ritual Music, professional press photos and press kit, an awesome website, and of course, our first logo:

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TCP logo circa 2006

July 2007: TCP’s first performance at Rush Hour Concerts. This was the first concert we were actually hired to play, rather than self-presenting or performing pro bono. It was also the beginning of another very important long-term working relationship. TCP has performed on Rush Hour Concerts every summer since– we premiered a new work by our own David Skidmore on the season finale of Rush Hour’s 10th Anniversary Season (commissioned for the occasion)– and the two organizations have collaborated on a number of important community engagement and youth education programs in Chicago over the years.

Winter 2009: TCP’s first real tour. After a few quick run-outs here and there, this was our first substantial time on the road. We toured around the Midwest for about 10 days, performing at University of Illinois, Southeast Missouri State, University of Kentucky, and Tennessee Tech, then headed down to Texas for about 2 weeks, performing at a number of Universities and the Round Top Percussion Festival. We were all paying our bills with other teaching and performance work at this point, so it was a big deal to 1. figure out how to leave town for most of a month; and 2. actually generate some income from TCP (along with some expenses). It’s worth noting that this tour depended heavily on family and friends who put us up, and the enthusiasm of percussion professors who were willing to take a chance on a little-known quartet from Chicago.

TCP at Southeast Missouri State, February 2009

August 2009: TCP gets its first grant! We had finally become a 501(c)3 earlier that year, and we had begun renting a studio space in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood in 2008, both of which were game-changers in their own right. This first grant we received, from the MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at the Richard H Driehaus Foundation, changed things in a very tangible way. For the previous year, the members of TCP had paid the rent on the studio space out of our own pockets. The Driehaus grant provided enough funding to pay the rent on the space, marking the moment when the four of us got to stop paying to be in Third Coast Percussion. The MacArthur and Driehaus foundations are still very important pillars of support for TCP to this day, along with a number of other generous foundations and individuals you can read about here.

Summer 2011: Samir Mayekar returns to Chicago and becomes the chair of TCP’s board of directors. Like all non-profit organizations, Third Coast Percussion has a board of directors. Samir was one of our first board members when we incorporated, and when he returned to Chicago, to pursue an MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business, it transformed the role that TCP’s board played. The board became much more independent, providing greater accountability for the four of us performers who were running the organization, and pressing us to make plans for where we wanted to be 5 years down the road. The board also began growing, as Samir and other board members actively recruited and networked to find other individuals who would be excited to join the team. Samir’s energy and dedication have set the tone for our amazing board of directors, which is now comprised of 13 people, including one ensemble representative. The enthusiasm of these individuals, who volunteer their time and support TCP financially, has been crucial to getting our organization to where it is today.

Fall 2012: Third Coast Percussion premieres Augusta Read Thomas’s Resounding Earth at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Augusta had been a great friend and advocate of our ensemble since the beginning, and she approached us with an idea for a large scale work scored entirely for different kinds of bells, a sound that has been central to her work for many years. This piece marked a number of firsts for TCP: it was our first commissioned work by a world-renowned composer, our first performance at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, where we later established a residency position, the first work that required us to build an entirely new instrument inventory, our first fully-collaborative commissioning process, and our first major individual giving campaign, “Adopt a Bell,” in which many generous individuals made donations to support this project. Since the premiere, we’ve performed the full work about 2 dozen times across America and in Germany, performed extracted movements of the work over 100 times, recorded a CD/DVD of the work, and created a free iPhone app that allows the user to play the many different bells used in this piece and learn more about their origins.

TCP premieres Resounding Earth, September 2012

Summer 2013: TCP begins its Notre Dame residency and goes full-time! We had been pushing for many years to get to the point where Third Coast Percussion could become a full-time job for all four of us. Increased support from foundations and individuals, and a more rigorous touring schedule helped to make it possible, but beginning our position as Ensemble-in-Residence at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center put it over the top, and convinced us that it was possible to resign from our other professional obligations as teachers and performers- which we also loved- in order to make TCP our full-time pursuit. Being able to dedicate all of our time to TCP helped things to take off from there! We’re now in the third season of our position at Notre Dame, and it’s been incredibly rewarding on many levels.

Winter 2015: TCP hires its first non-performing administrator, Liz Pesnel. After achieving the dream of working full-time for TCP, our next dream was to have extra help with the administrative work, so we would all have more time to dedicate to the artistic side of things. We were incredibly fortunate that our first administrative hire was someone so capable and hard working. Liz came on board in February 2015 as a part-time Office Manager, and jumped up to being our full-time Managing Director in summer 2015. Many of TCP’s big projects in the past year- including In C Chicago, Inuksuit at Notre Dame, and our upcoming European tour– would not have been possible without having Liz on our team!

More game changing moments to come! There are many more exciting things in TCP’s future; the organization will continue to grow and we will continue to push the bounds artistically. Many of the major landmarks above were empowered by generous individuals and foundations; this kind of support made the difference between the four of us paying to be in TCP or starting get paid to do the work that we do, the difference between TCP being a part-time project or a full-time career, and the difference between the four of us being the only employees of TCP or adding a staff position. Each of these steps has, in turn, allowed TCP to pursue a more rigorous performance schedule, and more ambitious artistic and educational projects. Click here to support TCP’s continued growth by making a tax-deductible gift this holiday season.

 

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Meet our Emerging Composers!

For the third round of TCP’s Emerging Composers Partnership program, we received 99 applications, almost twice as many as previous years. There was so much great music in the bunch, it was really hard to pick just two composers to collaborate with! After many hours of reviewing applications (each of the 99 applicants submitted two recordings of their previous works, as well as a questionnaire, resume etc), and multiple meetings, we’re very excited to announce our two emerging composers for the 2016-17 season. They will each compose a new work for Third Coast Percussion through a series of collaborative workshops in Chicago. Their new work will be premiered on TCP’s Chicago Concert Season, and the composers each receive an honorarium and a recording of the piece.

José Martínez JoséMartinez -  3

José Martínez (b.1983, Cali, Colombia) is a composer and percussionist whose music incorporates a wide range of influences, from Colombian folk tunes to avant-garde Western art music. The sounds of Latin music, heavy metal, contemporary classical, and progressive rock all find a place to interact in his music and form his unique sound palette. His body of work includes pieces for orchestra, string quintet, saxophone quartet, pierrot ensembles, and solo with electronics.

Notable collaborations include works for the chamber orchestra Alarm Will Sound at the Mizzou International Composer Festival 2014 and the Spanish ensemble Taller Sonoro. Other important performances include two European premieres, one in the International Clarinet Convention in Spain and the other in the World Saxophone Congress in France. Also notable was the premiere of his string quintet Looking for the Clave by members of the St. Louis Symphony. He is a recipient of the 2013 Sinquefield Composition Prize, given each year to one University of Missouri composition student.  José also collaborated with percussionists Keith Aleo and Mike Truesdell in a new solo piece with live electronics, which they will take on a national US tour.

José recently participated in the Next on Grand: National Composers Intensive program organized by the LA Phil and the ensemble Wild Up, where he attended master classes with Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, Sean Friar and Steve Mackey.

José graduated from the National University of Colombia as both a percussionist and a composer. He is currently pursuing a MM in composition at the University of Missouri.

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American composer and vocalist Annika K. Socolofsky (b. 1990, Edinburgh, Scotland) finds her musical roots across many cultures. Her music stems from the timbral nuance and variation of the human voice, and is communicated through mediums ranging from orchestral works to unaccompanied folk ballads. Annika is a 2014 recipient of a Fromm Foundation Commission from Harvard University, funding a new multi-media work for the Emissary Quartet.

Her compositions have been performed by artists including the Donald Sinta Quartet, Access Contemporary Music Chicago, Alia Musica Pittsburgh, and the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, among others. Her works, projects, and related research have been presented at The Italian Society of Contemporary Music, Bang on a Can, Chamber Music America, Princeton Sound Kitchen, Midwest Composers Symposium, and Northwestern University New Music Institute & Conference. Annika is the recipient of a Fromm Foundation Commission, Rackham International Research Award, a Rackham Research Grant, first prize in the International Margaret Blackburn Biennial Composition Competition, and several awards from ASCAP.

Annika is currently a doctoral fellow in Composition at Princeton University. She holds a Master’s in Composition from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor’s in Composition from Carnegie Mellon University.

Support the Emerging Composers Partnership!

Third Coast Percussion’s Emerging Composers Partnership program is entirely donor funded. Click here to make a tax-deductible gift to help support the Emerging Composers Partnership, along with all of TCP’s other educational and performance programs. Thank you!
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TCP10: Questions we get asked all the time

As part of our series of #TCP10 blog posts, the members of Third Coast Percussion answer the 10 questions we’re most commonly asked by audience members after concerts and at the end of youth education programs.

1. Are you guys reading music up there? What does the sheet music look like?

One of the exciting challenges/opportunities in percussion music is that each piece needs its own notation system. Based on the instruments being used and the musical content, the composer needs to figure out the best way to communicate what they want to the performers to do. When we commission new works, working this out with the composer is always part of our collaboration.

Sometimes the notation just looks like typical sheet music, like you’d see on piano. This is often true of parts written for keyboard percussion instruments- marimba, vibraphone, etc.

(Sheet music image that looks like piano music)

Sometimes the music is notated on a normal looking staff, but the composer has to provide a key indicating what the different lines represent. So instead of the bottom line being E-natural, the bottom line is “low cowbell.”

(Sheet music that looks kinda like piano music)

Sometimes the music requires other graphic symbols to represent particular techniques. Again, the composer will have to define at the beginning of the score what these symbols mean.

(Sheet music that looks barely like piano music)

The result is usually some combination of traditional notation and newly invented symbols, but occasionally a composer will notate an entire piece using just their newly invented vocabulary, or in rare occasions, give us graphic symbols with NO explanation, and just leave it to us to decide what we’d like it to mean.

(Sheet music that looks like abstract art)

 

2. Where did you meet? How long have you been together?

We all met while studying music at Northwestern University. We each did at least one degree there, between 1999 and 2007. Chamber music for percussion was an important part of the curriculum there, and we had a phenomenal teacher, Michael Burritt, who really got us all excited about this repertoire.

Third Coast Percussion has been around since 2005. It grew out of a quartet we formed as part of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago’s Musicorps program to do community engagement work. We’re celebrating 10 years this season, with these blog posts and more!

 

3. How did you get all these instruments here?

In a big box truck. Or maybe a 15-passenger van with all the seats removed. Depending on the specifics of the gig, we rent the appropriately sized vehicle. We’ve considered buying a vehicle, but it’s not cost effective for us, especially because we sometimes need different sizes.

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All in a day’s work

On tour, we work together with presenters to figure out what instruments can be provided locally (particularly at Universities) and what we need to bring ourselves. If a gig is far enough away that we need to fly, then we may need to find friends or colleagues in the area (or make new friends!) who can help us out with larger instruments. We’ve also gotten very good at distributing instruments throughout our luggage so that every checked bag is exactly 49.5 pounds.

 

4. Are you guys related?

We’ve gotten this one a few times at elementary school shows. It usually elicits a hardy laugh, followed by a moment of, “wait a minute, do we look that much alike?”

The answer is definitely no, but it’s probably like people who end up looking like their pets. You spend enough time together in a 15-passenger van crammed full of drums, and next thing you know, you start to establish a striking resemblance….

 

5. What’s your favorite percussion instrument to play?

This is a good one. I polled the group at the end of a long month of performances and recordings.

Rob: If I had to pick one, I’d have to say the marimba. It’s got a warm sound and a broad pitch range, and can sound very different depending on the mallets used on it. It’s become a great vehicle for solo and chamber music.

Peter: The great thing about being a percussionist is that we’re not defined by one instrument. I love the variety and the experience of finding the perfect context for a unique sound.

David: I love drums! I just have a soft spot for the drum set, and love the opportunity to rock out.

Sean: Ugh- I dunno. Is this for the blog?

(Rob: yeah)

Sean: I like it when you guys play trios.

(Rob: So you like playing TACET.)

Sean: Yeah… Ok, fine: vibraphone.

(Rob: Yeah?)

Sean: I guess.

(Rob: Do you want me to ask you again in an hour?)

Sean: Why don’t you just put this whole conversation on the blog? I think this is all good stuff.

 

6. How do you decide who plays which part? Do you ever switch parts?

In a string quartet, it’s obvious who’s going to play the cello part. But for our ensemble, anyone could play any part. If someone has a particular part they want to play, they usually speak up at the beginning, and there’s rarely a case where two people are really determined to play the same part. If we’re working on duos, trios, or pieces where some parts are way harder than others, we try to balance it out so we’re all equally overwhelmed. There are rare instances where there’s a particular skill set required for one part that’s not shared by all of us- we’re not all equally good at playing piano, or whistling, for instance. A lot of times, we just assign the parts alphabetically by last name.

 

7. What’s that drum with the stick in it?

This thing is called a Lion’s Roar. Long time TCP fans will recognize this from John Cage’s Third Construction, among other pieces. It’s just a drum with a stick or rope secured through the drum head. The player draws a wet rag along the length of the stick or rope, and the drum head amplifies the friction, making a sound reminiscent of a lion’s roar or growl. It was used as a Foley effect in radio plays back in the day. Once TCP played a gig in the LA area, and the presenter secured a lion’s roar for us to use in the concert. We were informed that this was actually an “Ape’s Roar,” and that was used in the original Planet of the Apes films in the 1960s and 70s.

Peter demonstrates proper Lion’s Roar technique

 

8. Don’t you wish you played the flute?

Nah.

I mean, the flute’s cool and all. But look at all the cool stuff we get to play! Plus we get the regular exercise of lifting heavy objects!

 

9. Where and how much do you rehearse?

We’ve got a rehearsal space in an old factory building in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood. We moved in there in 2008, and in recent years, the building has also become the home to other awesome new music groups: Ensemble Dal Niente and Eighth Blackbird. There are also a number of print makers, some of whom have made posters for us, as well as CHIRP radio, Po Campo bags, and a number of other cool start-ups and artists.

There’s no “normal week” in Third Coast Percussion land, but if there was, we’d be in Chicago, at our studio, from 10am to 6pm, Monday through Friday. We’d spend about half that time rehearsing and half the time doing the administrative work that goes into running our organization. Personal practice- and inevitably more administrative work- usually happens outside the 10-6 time frame.

But there’s no normal week. Some times we’re rehearsing non-stop all day, other times we’re spending most of the day at our laptops.

 

10. Do you play any other instruments?

There’s a little bit of guitar and a good bit of piano background, but really, percussion takes up all of our time. There’s an infinite variety of instruments to learn, from musical traditions across the globe. Members of the group have been expanding our skill set lately, learning some non-western music. We’ve had the opportunity to study with some master musicians from Africa- Nani Agbeli from Ghana and Musekiwa Chingodza from Zimbabwe over the last few seasons, learning about Ewe drumming and Shona Mbira music.

 

Bonus question: “Is this your job?”

We get asked this a lot- or some variation of it. We’re really excited to be able to say, “Yes! As of 2013, this is what we all do full-time.” Third Coast Percussion is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation. We have a fantastic board of directors who help steer our organization’s growth, and there are a number of wonderful foundations and individuals who support our work through tax deductible donations. You can too!

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TCP10: Season Highlights

As part of our series of #TCP10 blog posts, the members of TCP talk about 10 things they’re most excited about during the 10th Anniversary Season.

David: TCP is going on our first major European tour this season, which is pretty exciting. We’ll be playing Wild Soundthe major multimedia work we commissioned from composer Glenn Kotche, at a number of venues across the continent.

Wild Sound

Rob: I’m looking forward to our 6th full-length album coming out in February, which is an album of Steve Reich’s music on Cedille Records. Reich’s music has always been an important part of our repertoire, and it’s great to put our own stamp on these important works. We’re also working on a new mobile app that goes with the album, so stay tuned for more details on that! I feel like our mobile apps are a really great way for people everywhere to have interactive experiences with the music we play.

Sean: I’m excited to be performing in Alaska for the first time as part of our residency with Juneau Jazz and Classics.  We’ll be taking part in a performance of John Luther Adams’ massive outdoor work Inuksuit, and I’m eager to experience that work in the landscape from which it draws inspiration. Plus, it would be amazing if we get to see a polar bear or a whale…

How Sean pictures our Alaska residency…

Peter: I’m excited for the opportunity to do some professional development with master Ewe musician and dancer Nani Agbeli again this season. This guy is just a ridiculous artist and it’s so nice to step out of our comfort zone and into a new culture and musical tradition.

Nani Agbeli

Sean: I’m very excited to find out who the next round of collaborators will be in our Emerging Composers Partnership.  We’ve already had two fantastic workshopping sessions with the two composers for this year, Danny Clay and Katherine Young, and we’ll know who the next round will be by the end of the calendar year.

David: Donnacha Dennehy is writing us a new piece for a panoply of drums scattered throughout the performance space. He’s dreaming up some really amazing new sounds for these instruments that are at the core of what we do as an ensemble. We’ll be performing the piece at Notre Dame, University of Chicago, and the Met Museum this winter!

Donnacha Dennehy

Peter: I’m really thrilled that TCP is going through its first financial audit.  While this may sound like “I’m thrilled to listen to Dave practice Bach on the Digeridoo”, I’m actually genuinely excited about it. I’ve been managing our finances for a very long time, and going through this process is just another milestone that showcases how far our organization has come.

Dave practicing Bach on his Didgeridoo

Liz, TCP Managing Director: I suppose to start I am so happy to be here!  Being the ensembles first administrative hire feels pretty special to me. I’m looking forward to seeing how they grow over the next year (and beyond!) since I’ll be taking some administrative work off their plates. It might sound lame but thinking about ways I can give them more time to just keep being musicians is really exciting to me.

Rob: We’ve got a bit of a homecoming at Northwestern University this season. All four of us are NU alums, but we haven’t played a concert there since the first concert we ever played! It’s particularly exciting because we’ll be performing in their beautiful new concert hall, with views of the lake and skyline. The concert is part of Northwestern’s New Music Conference, and we’ll be working with NU composition students throughout the year.

Northwestern’s new Music and Communications Building

David: I’m really excited to be playing Steve Reich’s Sextet a few times this season. It’s one of my absolute favorite pieces to play, and we’ll be performing it with two killer pianists – Oliver Hagen and David Friend.

Click here to support TCP as we celebrate 10 years!

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Third Coast Percussion Celebrates 10 Years!

 

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This season, we’re celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Third Coast Percussion! Throughout the season, we’ll be posting a series of #TCP10 blog entries, looking back on the first ten years, reflecting on where the organization is today, and discussing our plans for the future.

We’d also like to invite all of you to share your own favorite Third Coast Percussion memories or photos from the past 10 years on social media, with the hashtag #TCP10.

Our 10-year celebration began earlier this summer; our mammoth In C performance in Millennium Park happened to fall exactly 10 years to the day after the first concert TCP ever played. Right after the concert, we hosted a reception to celebrate 10 years with our fans, families, supporters, and colleagues.

(All photos by Peter Tsai)

We had an instrument petting zoo for people to try out some of our instruments.

Including the Arduino keyboards from Glenn Kotche’s “Wild Sound.”

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We were honored by some incredibly kind words from composer and long-time collaborator Augusta Read Thomas.

Our board chair Samir Mayekar toasted TCP.

We had a gallery of press photos throughout the years… we were apparently all very moody in our 20s. (Keep an eye out for more of that on the blog.)

TCP has fans of all ages!

 

The exciting growth that Third Coast Percussion has experienced over the past decade has only been possible because of the generosity of many individuals and foundations who value our artistic and educational work. Visit our Support Us page to make a gift in support of TCP’s 10th Anniversary Season and see our complete list of supporters.

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In C Performance

What an experience! Our plan was to gather 80 performers in honor of Terry Riley’s 80th birthday, and we ended up with over 100 of Chicago’s finest musicians to join us in concert at Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion.

The Group

The performers came from all over Chicago’s diverse musical community. Our musicians included members from the Chicago Harp Quartet, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, Ensemble Dal Niente, Fifth House Ensemble, Grant Wallace Band, In Tall Buildings, Lowdown Brass Band, Matt Ulery’s Loom, MOCREP, Mucca Pazza, North Shore Concert Band, Parlour Tapes+, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Rock River Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Snarky Puppy, Spare Parts, Spektral Quartet, Templom, Ursa Ensemble, and Wild Belle.  We also had students from the Chicago High School for the Arts, DePaul University, Merit School of Music, Milliken University, Northern Illinois University, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago. Our hats off to the crew at Pritzker Pavilion, there were a lot of lines to sound check.

 

Some Closeups

We had a section of 7 harpists!  Such incredible musicians and what an amazing sound!

Yes, in addition to just about every orchestral instrument you could think of, we also had 2 melodicas, 3 toy pianos…

…whatever Jenna Lyle from Parlour Tapes+ was playing…

…and this amazing instrument.  An Array Mbira performed by Matt Shelton.

Dave held it all down with his glockenspiel.  Seriously, he played 8th-note C’s for 45 minutes straight!  Our concert that night opened for Snarky Puppy, and a few of their members joined us including guitarist Bob Lanzetti.

I have to give a shout out to Jacob Nissly. Jake was an original member of Third Coast Percussion from back in 2005.  Our In C performance also happened to be 10 years to the exact date of our first concert ever.  Jake is now the principle percussionist of the San Fransisco Symphony and flew out to play again with the group and celebrate our 10th anniversary with us.

The Venue

Summer in Chicago at the best outdoor venue in the city.  You can’t control the weather, and there were a few showers that day all the way up through our sound check.  Luckily it cleared up and an estimated 6,000 audience members came to the show.

 

Wrapping Up

I got to cue the final swell of the piece.  Directing over 100 players in this massive sound was one of the most unique musical experiences I’ve ever had.  I had an audience member tell me that it was the loudest thing they’d ever heard at a classical music performance.  When we reached our loudest point, I screamed “Louder!”  I realized I couldn’t hear myself screaming and figured it was probably good:).

I’ve had the opportunity now to perform in C a handful of times across the country.  One of my favorite memories as a teacher was organizing a flash-mob performance of “In C” while a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. When I think about playing “In C”, I always think of Joy.

To me, performances of In C are really a celebration between musicians.  The music becomes a joyful dialogue amongst performers who are celebrating the fact that they have the opportunity to create music together. I think many would agree that this type of experience also gets to the heart of much of Terry Riley’s music. What an experience to be able to perform alongside so many amazing musicians! I even had the honor of sharing a piano with Mabel Kwan (…also an incredibly intimidating and humbling experience because she’s a monster pianist…).

We celebrated Terry Riley’s 80th Birthday with thousands of audience members, celebrated being a musician with over 100 of our friends and colleagues on stage, celebrated our ensembles 10-year anniversary, and celebrated the close to another awesome concert season.

Winning.

-PJM

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Terry Riley’s In C

In C Performers:

Thank you so much for joining us on this performance! We are so excited for this opportunity to make music with all of you at one of the most spectacular venues in Chicago. Our goal is to create an amazing performance experience for both our musicians and our audience. Many thanks for bringing your time and talents to this unique event.

On this blog post, you will find:

  • Printed music for In C. There are performance scores in concert pitch, as well as scores transposed for Eb, F, and Bb instruments. Each copy of the score also has detailed performance directions from Terry Riley.
  • A list of events for the performance project, with times and locations.
  • A general discussion on performance practice of In C and a few specific directions for our performance together.
  • Some instructional videos for In C.
  • Video and Audio of a few performances of In C.

Printed Scores

Terry Riley – In C (concert)

Terry Riley – In C for Eb instruments

Terry Riley – In C for F instruments

Terry Rliey – In C for Bb instruments

Calendar of Events

  •  June 24, Third Coast Percussion studio
    • 6:00-9:00pm
    • 4045 N Rockwell St.  Chicago, IL 60618
      • free street parking
      • food provided
  • June 25,  Pritzker Pavillion
    • 3:00pm load-in, call for all performers
      • Enter stage from Randolph St., east side of the pavillion
    • 4:15-5:00pm soundcheck
    • 5:00-6:00pm Stage dark
    • 6:30-7:15 Performance
    • 7:15-7:30 Change over stage

Performance Specifics

Performing directions for In C are included in each copy of the score. Please familiarize yourself with all of the directions from the composer in the score. Additionally, below you’ll find a few specifics and some general ideas to help prepare you for our performance at Pritzker Pavillion:

For this performance, we are shooting for a total duration of 45 min. As you move through the musical material, you should spend around 45-50 seconds on each pattern. The performance tempo will be ca. quarter note = 96 bpm, and pulsing eighth notes will be played by a member of TCP on glockenspiel throughout.

The performance will begin with the glockenspiel playing eighth notes on a concert C pitch. After 5-10 seconds, the entire ensemble will begin entering with the first melodic pattern. Each performer should enter when they feel appropriate and every performer should have entered after 20 seconds.

Listen first, then play 😉 Each individual performer must play strictly within the grid provided by the glockenspiel. However, each performer is free to choose where the “downbeat” of each measure is. Players should feel free to take breaks from playing periodically, but remember that the chronological map of 45-50 seconds per pattern should keep on going whether you are playing or not. If you need to stop to breath, stop. If you don’t need to stop to breath, you should probably still stop from time to time which will add the changes in texture that can create such fantastic performances of the piece.

You should never be more than 2-3 melodic patterns ahead or behind the rest of the ensemble. If you listen around and realize that you are still playing pattern 3 while the rest of the ensemble is somewhere around 19, jump forward to join them. Similarly, if you realize that you are really far ahead of the rest of the ensemble, fade out, wait for the group to catch up to your location, and come back in.

Performers should feel free to add dynamics and articulation to the melodic patterns as they feel appropriate. Listen across the ensemble. If you hear another performer phrasing a pattern in a particular way, try to imitate it. The uniformity of interpretation will highlight the canonic effect of the music. If you hear other performers moving in a particular direction dynamically, try following them. This will bring a unified sound and direction to the ensemble.

Perform each musical pattern in a register you feel appropriate on your instrument. If you like, you can switch registers throughout the piece. Use your instruments’ unique advantages to serve the performance as a whole. For instance, if you play an instrument with a great low register and the ability to sustain, bring out those long tones and help fill out the sound of the ensemble!

If there is a pattern that doesn’t work well on your voice or instrument at the given tempo, you can augment the rhythmic values of the musical pattern (16th notes become eighth notes, eighth notes become quarter notes, etc.). You can also choose to sit out for a pattern if it’s not idiomatic to your voice/instrument. Always make sure that you are keeping track of where you are and the timing of each pattern, even if you aren’t playing it.

The piece will end after all players arrive at no. 53. Once everyone has arrived at this last motive, the entire ensemble with play a long and gradual crescendo and diminuendo, lasting 20-30 seconds total. A member from Third Coast Percussion will cue the beginning of this event. Everyone will then fade out, leaving only pulsing eighth notes in the glockenspiel. The last instrument to be playing, the glockenspiel will fade out and the performance ends.

Instructional Videos

Video / Audio of In C Performances

There are so many recordings of this work, and the diversity of the performances and ensembles is one of the things that makes the music so fantastic and timeless. I like the Bang on a Can All-Stars’ version. There are a few links to performances online below. Dig around yourself and share! If there is a performance that you really love, send us a link and we’ll post it.

Terry Riley (audio)

Terry Riley & Friends – Amsterdam

Baylor Percussion Group

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