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A summer of Wild Sound- South Bend 2014

As part of our Ensemble-in-Residence position at the University’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, we spend about a month each summer living in South Bend, developing the projects that we’ll be bringing to the DeBartolo stage during the come year, meeting with faculty and students, and generally getting our act together.

This year we decided to bring in some guest artists to help further our continued growth as musicians. During our first week at Notre Dame, we had the privilege of working with Musekiwa Chingodza, a world-renowned Mbira player from Zimbabwe.  Musekiwa was in the states for about 6 months, busily traveling around the country performing and teaching, and we managed to get him to South Bend for a few days to work with us on Shona music.


Here’s Musekiwa teaching us “Chamutengure,” one of his signature songs.



And doesn’t that T-shirt look great on him?



It was a really memorable and educational experience for all 4 of us. Thanks to the Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center for coordinating Musekiwa’s visit. We hope to work with him again soon!

The following week we had percussion guru Russell Hartenberger out to South Bend to listen to us play, give us feedback, and generally share his experiences from 40+ years playing in Steve Reich & Musicians and the percussion ensemble Nexus, trailblazers in our field. Russ was deeply insightful and great to work with.



Here he is helping us get the perfect bass drum sound for Reich’s Sextet:


It was excellent to take the time for professional and artistic development with these two great guys. It’s something we all agreed we need to make sure we do more often.

The biggest project of our Notre Dame time was working on our new project with Glenn Kotche, Wild Sound.  This project has been years in the making, and has grown into the most elaborate production we’ve ever been a part of. This piece involves pre-made video and audio tracks that accompany the live performance, live video, amplification through a variety of means, and zero ordinary instruments. Every sound comes from a found object, or an instrument we create on stage during the piece, or the sounds of creating those instruments.


We’re incredibly fortunate to have a team of interns at Notre Dame, students with both engineering and music backgrounds, who helped develop some of the more advanced technology that will be used in this piece. Here’s Glenn checking out some of what they’ve been working on with Arduino technology:



And here Glenn’s working with Peter on his “fishing-line violin” part:



And one of the interns, Jonathan, showing us what he can do with an X-Box Kinect:


This piece is going to be really amazing! You can see the premiere October 3 at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, with subsequent performances in St Paul (MN), New York and Chicago. You can also get a sneak peak at a little bit of the piece, and the process behind it, at our “Inside the Composer’s Studio” event with Glenn!

Our gracious host for our 4 weeks in South Bend was a young man named David Matthews. I’ve never met someone who was so passionate about the ongoing revitalization of downtown South Bend. He showed us a whole new side of the city, and we’ve got a few new places on our list to visit during our future time at Notre Dame.



Finally, our summer time in South Bend is our time to cook giant meals for the ensemble.  Here are a couple of highlights:


Migas a la Skidmore



Kung Pao Chicken a la Dillon



Chicken and Dumplin’s a la Skidmore



Cumin Lamb a la Dillon



…and the final feast!  Featuring lemon baked chicken and potatoes from our new South Bend buddy Velvet, Chinese Broccoli a la Dillon, and Gyoza a la Min Park.




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Bravo! Vail Residency

What better way to start our 2014-2015 season than a residency at the Bravo! Vail music festival in Vail, CO!?!  Over the course of 11 jam-packed days we played 9 concerts, including: chamber recitals at several chapels throughout the Vail Valley, a presentation on “The Science Behind Sound” at the Walking Mountains Science Center, numerous interactive “Little Listener” concerts at local libraries, an appearance on Good Morning Vail, a late night concert at the Vail Ale House and a thrilling collaborative finale with pianists Gilles Vonsattel and Bravo! Vail Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott that was broadcast live over Colorado Public Radio.  Phew!

When we could remember, we snapped a few photos along the way of performances, rehearsals, schlepping, hiking, eating…


– David, Peter, Rob, Sean


We loaded up the ole box truck to the brim and headed out across the plains to the Rockies.  Nebraska seemed to last forever…


We hit the ground running and played 3 unique recital programs over the course of 4 days with music by some of our favorite composers, including: Timo Andres, Tobias Broström, John Cage, Clay Condon, Thierry De Mey, Alexandre Lunsqui,  Marc Mellits, Minoru Miki, Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, Augusta Read Thomas, and our very own David Skidmore.






Edwards Interfaith Chapel was our first concert stop…






…and then it was on to Vail Chapel where we played two more concerts.  The view out the window of the chapel was of  a babbling mountain creek and hummingbirds darting to and fro.  Too bad Colorado isn’t pretty.






One of the most exciting collaborations we had during our time in Vail was with the Walking Mountains Science Center as part of  their “Science Behind…” series.   We presented a project developed in conjunction with the College of Engineering at the University of  Notre Dame entitled ND Waves which focuses on the intersection between science and the arts.


As part of the NDWaves project, Professor Jay Brockman and a team of Notre Dame students helped Third Coast design and develop instruments that illustrate basic characteristics and qualities of sound waves.  Peter Martin of TCP then composed a piece for Third Coast and an audience of any size to perform together.






Using technology such as oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers, we illustrated what technically happens to sound waves when percussionists make changes in pitch, dynamics, timbre, and purity of tone.









Here’s the gang assembling all of the instruments before the show…








…and the crowd of all ages at Walking Mountains being instructing how to play the instruments during the concert.








Everybody loves those pipes and log drums!









Next up: late night concert at the Vail Ale House as part of “Vail After Dark”.












This concert was just plain FUN.








Interspersed between all of these amazing concerts, we shot out to several local libraries and made music with some very hip, very eager 3 – 7 year olds as part of Bravo! Vail’s Little Listeners series.












Again: just. plain. FUN!








Our final concert featured landmark collaborative works for two pianos and percussion by Béla Bártok and Steve Reich.







Unfortunately, Bártok didn’t compose parts for four percussionists.  So while Dave and Rob were rehearsing with Annie Marie and Gilles…








…Pete and Sean got to go for a hike into the Whitewater National Forest.


















A big THANK YOU to all of our new friends at Bravo! Vail and the audiences in Colorado for an incredible experience and amazing start to our season!

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Fun Facts for the 2013-14 Season

Here are some nerdy fun facts about Third Coast Percussion’s 2013-14 season!  Between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, Third Coast Percussion will have:

–  given 82 performances
– performed in 10 states (including DC) and 3 countries
– performed on the campus of 18 different colleges/universities.
– performed in 11 different K-12 schools.
– performed 61 different pieces of music, a combined 16 hours of repertoire
– met with the Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Marimba Ensemble 15 times as part of the new educational initiative spearheaded by Rush Hour Concerts
–  driven 13,652 miles for concerts
–  spent more than 228 hours in a van/truck driving to concerts (equivalent to 9.5 straight days)
– driven through 17 different states
– endured 1 blown tire, 1 crushed truck roof, 1 ripped-off car bumper, 1 dead truck battery, 1 parking ticket, 1 torched and wrecked SUV
– performed during 2 tornado watches and drove through snow storms in 7 different months

This was also our first year working full-time for Third Coast Percussion, and the first year of our 5-year Ensemble-in-Residence position at the University of Notre Dame.

Thanks for supporting us in all of our endeavors!  Click below to help us meet our fiscal year-end fundraising goal and fully fund all of these projects.


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Two Composers Selected for First Emerging Composers Partnership Program

We are excited to announce that we have selected two composers to collaborate with in our first Emerging Composers Partnership!  Ben Hjertmann will compose a new work for TCP to premiere in the spring of 2014, and a new work by Jonathan Pfeffer will be premiered in the 2014-15 season. Each composer will engage in a collaborative commissioning process with us that will involve multiple meetings and reading sessions with the ensemble as they are composing the new piece, and each will receive an honorarium and recording of their work.

The selection process was very competitive, with approximately 50 emerging composers submitting applications in this first year of the program.  We  plan to accept applications for the next round of the Emerging Composers Partnership in the fall of 2014.


About the composers:


Ben Hjertmann is a Chicago-based composer and vocalist.  Ben composes and performs with the avant-folk trio the Grant Wallace Band and surrealist-pop band Kong Must Dead.

Hjertmann has collaborated with numerous chamber groups Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, New Thread Saxophone Quartet, Friction Quartet, Spektral Quartet, Borromeo Quartet, Anubis Quartet, Callithumpian Consort, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and many others.  His large ensemble music has been performed by UT-Austin, Louisiana State, Michigan State, Central Michigan, Kansas State, Lawrence, Northwestern, U-Nebraska at Lincoln, and NYU, Texas Tech, among others.  In 2013, Hjertmann formed a consortium of 34 wind ensembles and individuals in which the students of participating ensembles work closely with the composer throughout the process of creating a new work.

His music has been featured at Fast Forward Austin, Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinics, the conference of the College Band Directors National Association, and the South by Southwest NonClassical showcase.   Hjertmann has been a resident artist at the MacDowell Colony, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and the Shell Lake Arts Center.  He was a 2013 fellow at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Institute, and a 2011 fellow at the Other Minds Festival.

His work appears on Spektral Quartet’s debut album “Chambers”, released by Parlour Tapes+, and pianist Nick Phillips “American Vernacular” album released on New Focus Records.  In 2013 he released a self-produced album of chamber metal called Angelswort.

Ben received his Doctor of Music in Composition degree from Northwestern University in 2013.  His dissertation research focused on microtonal harmonic structures derived from sum & difference tones. He received his Bachelor of Music in Composition from Illinois Wesleyan University. Ben teaches  music technology at Northwestern University and composition for the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras.


Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer is a Philadelphia-based composer, baritone, and multimedia artist operating on the peripheries of contemporary music, DIY punk, and performance art.

As leader of confrontational cubist pop ensemble Capillary Action, Pfeffer has released three full-length albums and toured the globe countless times. He has made appearances at the Willisau Jazz, Primavera, and Incubate festivals, as well as basements, living rooms, kitchens, and illegally occupied warehouse spaces alongside Tony Conrad, Rhys Chatham, Zs, Mike Watt,Les Claypool, and Deerhoof, among others. Pfeffer has also lectured on compositional and philosophical matters for everyone from grad students at Rice University to kindergarteners at Johnson Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

In addition to composing for film, theatre, and various chamber ensembles, Pfeffer’s main focus is a solo guitar, voice, and video incarnation, which abstracts autobiographical narratives into harmonically and emotionally ambiguous “story-songs.”

In 2012, Pfeffer was commissioned by the American Composers Forum to realize Bodega, a piece for percussionists Ricardo Lagomasino (Deleted Scenes) and Eric Slick (Dr. Dog), synth artist Jeff Zeigler, featuring rappers Lushlife and YIKES the ZERO.In 2013, Pfeffer was commissioned by Emmy-award winning producer/director Kevin Alexander to compose the music for Hunter&Game, a feature-length mockumentary about a fictitious Brooklyn electro duo (due 2014) and the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to realizeAlektorophobic, a piece for Chicago pianist Julian Chin and New York-based MIVOS Quartet.


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Emerging Composers Partnership: 2014

TCP Emerging Composers Application 2014

(click on the above link to download a pdf of the current application)

TCP is excited to accept applications for the third season of our Emerging Composers Partnership!  The goal of this project is to connect young composers with professional performers in a meaningful collaborative experience.  Hands-on collaboration is essential for the success of a composer writing for percussion because of the vast array of instruments and endless range of possible techniques employed to play them.  With the demand from soloists, chamber groups, large ensembles, and educational institutions for new and artistically meaningful works for percussion ever increasing, we believe that composing for percussion is vital to the success of a contemporary composer. This project will expand the repertoire for percussion quartets, allow composers to gain exposure through the highest quality performance, and provide the Chicago contemporary music scene with premieres of works from the brightest rising stars in the composing community.

Emerging Composers Partnership 2014-15 is supported by New Music USA. To follow the project as it unfolds visit this project page.



The Project

– Third Coast Percussion (TCP) will choose a composer to collaborate in the composition of a new work for percussion quartet
– TCP will workshop the new work with the composer leading up to its Chicago premiere

– An honorarium will be provided to the winner, however no travel or housing costs will be provided

– Instrumentation of the new work is limited to 4 percussionists, and duration of the piece will not exceed 15 minutes (see specific details listed below)

– Application deadline for the 2015-2016 season is October 31st, 2014 (see specific application requirements below)


The winning composer(s) will:

· Compose a piece for TCP to be premiered at a mutually agreed upon date in the 2015-2016 concert season. The work will not have been performed before in any context.
· Receive a high quality live performance recording from the premiere of the new work to be used by him/her upon approval of TCP.
· Attend (3) three workshop rehearsal sessions with TCP in which the sketches of the new work can be explored with the ensemble
· Attend the premiere performance of the work on a TCP Chicago Concert Season concert
· Help TCP in promotion for the premiere performance
· Receive an honorarium of $1000

Third Coast Percussion:
· Agrees to perform the new work on a Chicago season concert, HOWEVER holds the right to delay the premiere performance for any reason
· May choose more than 1 composer to work with in one given season
· Will provide the winning composer(s) with a live performance recording or a recording of the work performed in the Third Coast Percussion studio.
Application Guidelines:
Applications will only be considered if ALL guidelines are met.
The deadline for score submission is October 31st, 2014.

There is no entry fee.

Each composer must submit ALL of the following material in order to be considered:

·      One recording representative of compositional style.  May be MIDI or live, but a live recording is encouraged when possible.

·      One score representative of compositional style.  A score containing writing for percussion is not required, but is encouraged.  Please submit scores in pdf format.  Do not submit Finale or Sibelius files.  Physical scores will not be accepted.

·      Completed questionnaire (included in application pdf at top of this page )

·      One page resumé including: education, previous composition experience, highlighted major performances of works, other pertinent information


and may submit ANY of the following optional material:

·      one additional representative recording (marked “additional recording”) and/or one additional score (marked “additional score”)

·      One page artistic statement that outlines your goals as an artist and your compositional style

·      Letter of recommendation addressing musicality, professionalism, previous compositional experience, and likelihood of success in this project


All application materials must be submitted electronically and should be e-mailed to:

[email protected]


Please reference the Q & A section at the end of the application for further information.

Previous E.C.P Composers
2013-2014 season: Ben Hjertmann
2014-2015 season: Jonathan Pfeffer
We look forward to receiving and reviewing your submissions!
– David, Peter, Rob, and Sean
Third Coast Percussion



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