February 21, 2016
by Stephen Smoliar
Third Coast Percussion is a Chicago-based quartet of percussionists that was formed in 2004 by Anthony Calabrese, Robert Dillon, Jacob Nissly, and David Skidmore. At the time they were both percussionists with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and students at Northwestern University. (The “third coast,” presumably, is that of Lake Michigan.) In the current group Sean Connors and Peter Martin have replaced Calabrese and Nissly. While Chicago is “home,” the group is currently ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame.
As might be guessed, the group has an active commissioning effort; and Skidmore is one of the contributing composers. They also collaborate with other Chicago-based groups, including Eighth Blackbird, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and Hubbard Street Dance. They have been recording since 2008 and participated in a project to record the works for percussion by John Cage. This has involved them with labels such as Mode Records, New Focus Recordings, and New Amsterdam Records.
Last month Third Coast Percussion released its debut album with Cedille Records. The album offers four of Steve Reich’s most notable percussion works and was produced as their way of acknowledging that composer’s 80th birthday, which will take place later this year on October 3. In chronological order the works on the new album are “Music for Pieces of Wood” (1973), “Sextet” (1984), “Nagoya Marimbas” (1994), and “Mallet Quartet” (2009).