Press Materials

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“They play as if they’re a single, eight-armed organism”
-NPR Music

“Virtuosity and deft, precisely timed wit”
-Washington Post

“Commandingly elegant”
-New York Times

-Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“An inspirational sense of fun and curiosity”
-Minnesota Star-Tribune

“The group performed with absolute aplomb”
-Boston Globe

-Chicago Tribune

“Mysterious, funny, endlessly inventive”
-Boston Classical Review

-Independent (UK)

“Technical precision, palpable groove and outstanding sound”
-Time Out New York 

-New York Times

“Savvy and hyper-talented young percussionists”
-Musical Toronto

“Fluency and zest”
-Andrew Clements, the Guardian (UK)

“Undeniably groovy…masterfully performed”
-Time Out Chicago

“One of the country’s finest new music ensembles”
-Chicago Reader

“The musicality and fierce focus of Third Coast Percussion electrified the room.”
-Sarasota Herald-Tribune 

Reviews and Features

Three Cheers for Third Coast Percussion

August 22, 2018
by Katie Griffiths

One of the highlights of our 2018-19 season is a collaboration with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, a project that we have been working to create for years now. This fantastic show will feature choreography by Emma Portner and Movement Art Is co-founders Jon Boogz and Lil Buck, as well as original music by Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange). We are looking forward to performing it in Chicago on September 27, 29, and 30, and across the country during the rest of the season. Katie Griffiths from Hubbard Street recently interviewed David about the project. Read the full interview below, or on Hubbard’s blog here.

Hubbard Street’s 40th Anniversary Season is coming to a close, but the excitement continues to build for Season 41. To start with a bang, the Fall Series brings together the viral Emma Portner; Jon Boogz and Lil Buck, co-founders of Movement Art Is; Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange); and last but certainly not least, Grammy Award-winning Third Coast Percussion. David Skidmore, one of the founding members, gives us a little insight on how dance and percussion work together, as well as what he’s most excited about for the Fall Series.

Have you ever worked with a dance company before?

“We’ve worked with Hubbard on a piece by Jiří Kylián called Falling Angels, with music by composer Steve Reich. We’re completely spoiled for life when it comes to working with dance companies.”

How do you create your music? Collaboratively or on your own?

“Everything we do is collaborative. Either the four of us in Third Coast Percussion collaborate on new work, or [we] work with a composer. We’ve also collaborated with engineers, architects, [and] now choreographers. We all love the collaborative process. We learn something new each time we work with someone.”

How was Third Coast Percussion formed?

“The four of us studied together under an incredible teacher named Michael Burritt. Mike instilled in us a love for percussion music, and we founded the group just after we graduated. That was about 13 years ago.”

How did you get involved with Hubbard Street?

“When Hubbard Street programmed Falling Angels, the choreographer expressed a preference for live music. The piece calls for four, classically-trained percussionists. We [were] one of two, full-time percussion quartets in the country, and we happened to be based in Chicago, so it was a natural fit. We had an immediate appreciation for every aspect of Hubbard Street. It’s an organization of incredible people dedicated to the highest artistic standards, and their work sits right at that crucial balance of entertaining and thought-provoking. So right away we started hinting at the idea of a bigger project together.

Do you have any background with dance?

“I was actually in a dance and percussion student group at Northwestern University called Boomshaka. It was a little bit like Stomp, only cooler. I cannot say that I ever came close to dancing at a professional level, but performing with that group did give me a deep appreciation for how to move on stage [and] how to communicate with your entire body — even when performing as a musician.”

Does dance influence your music?

“I think when you can get out of your own head and superego enough to let loose and move your body, you access an aspect of self-expression that is otherwise closed off. And all of us in Third Coast have to move so much to play our instruments. We move together on stage; that’s a huge part of what it takes to make music with four percussionists. So although we don’t call it dancing, we are coordinating the movement of our bodies to create performance art…which sounds a whole lot like dancing to me.”

What are you most looking forward to with the Fall Series?

“Learning a ton, being challenged, and coming up with an incredible evening of performance art to share with our favorite audience, right here at home in Chicago.”

Join us September 27, 29, and 30 at the Harris Theater to see Third Coast Percussion live, in action! Purchase your tickets here.


Album Review: Paddle to the Sea

June 30, 2018
by Graham Rickson

This is an enormously enjoyable album…the best percussion disc I’ve heard in ages.”

Musical material which might in some circumstances seem naïve or simplistic rarely does so when scored for percussion. Take a work like Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood – who’d have imagined that the thwacking of different sized sticks could sound so cool? Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion have already recorded an impressive Reich CD, but this new one is based around something different. Paddle to the Sea is a suite composed collaboratively by the group’s players, designed to accompany showings of a 1966 film adaptation of an iconic children’s book about a toy canoe travelling from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a substantial, 33 minute work, a parade of enchanting watery vignettes. The pace ebbs and flows to match the watercourses traversed by the canoe, the mood veering between serenity and agitation. It’s enchanting, though would have been better still had there been a way to include the film as part of the package. I’ll search for it on YouTube.

Third Coast Percussion admit that their score allowed them “to pay homage to some artists that we admire”, and works by said influences are included as couplings. Philip Glass’s 12 Pieces for Ballet were arranged by a Brazilian ensemble and became Aguas da Amazonia. Four of them were adapted further by Third Coast, each named after the Amazon and three of its tributaries. Whereas Glass’s extended works often outstay their welcome, these four little pieces delight. Interspersed with the Glass are the six movements of Jacob Druckman’s epic solo marimba opus, Reflections on the Nature of Water, the playing duties shared between the group. Plus a transcription of a Zimbabwean melody, the original’s thumb piano textures now heard on marimba, shakers and vocals. This is an enormously enjoyable album – attractively designed and well-annotated. Cedille’s engineering is rich and vivid – this is the best percussion disc I’ve heard in ages.

Click here for the original article.

An Array of Percussion

“…[an] acutely sensitive approach to sound…”

June 25, 2018
by Pwyll ap Siôn

Gone are the days when percussion players would spend their time counting empty bars at the back of the orchestra. The percussion section now plays an integral part in any symphony orchestra’s sonic armoury. Yet the most exciting work continues to take place away from the conductor’s podium through percussion groups and ensembles. These highly flexible and adaptable mini-multi-orchestras form a natural tributary for today’s many stylistic cross-currents. Western, non-Western, classical, folk, jazz, avant-garde or pop — such diverse influences converge and connect in these more flexible contexts, resulting in inventive cross-fertilisations and creative collaborations.

Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion epitomise this new dynamic new breed. Following on from their award-winning disc of music by Steve Reich (Cedille, 6/16), Paddle to the Sea showcases the percussion quartet’s talents as composers and performers. The central work is the group’s evocative soundtrack to the Academy Award-nominated film Paddle to the Sea, produced by the National Film Board of Canada in 1966, itself based on Holling C. Holling’s 1941 children’s book of the same name.

The score, which makes use of a bewildering array of instruments ranging from marimbas, vibraphones and drum kit to glass bowls, tuned cowbells, pitched desk bells, ceramic tiles and sand blocks, could have easily resulted in a dense textural tangle laden with special effects. However, Third Coast Percussion’s acutely sensitive approach to sound yields a work that glides effortlessly and subtly between animated rhythmic sections and moments of serene, tranquil reflection.

Read the full article in Gramophone Magazine.

Philip Glass, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon on tap for 2018-19 Liquid Music Series

June 26, 2018
by Christy DeSmith

Glass will write a piece for Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion, while Gordon will perform a “very intimate” work at the American Swedish Institute. 

Known for bridging the worlds of indie rock, jazz and classical, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series has grown in breadth and ambition over six years. With its 2018-19 season, announced Tuesday, Liquid Music offers more cross-genre pollinating with added star power, a lot more dance and a personal best of six world premieres.

The season’s biggest booking involves composer Philip Glass, celebrated for his minimalist operas, symphonies and film scores. Liquid Music partnered with a handful of arts groups and individuals to commission a new Glass piece for Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion. “It’s Philip’s first work for percussion ensemble,” noted Liquid Music curator Kate Nordstrum. Third Coast also will play fresh music by Devonté Hynes, aka Blood Orange, a pop producer and songwriter with a wildly diverse sound palette. (Dec. 9, Ordway Concert Hall, St. Paul)

Another head-turning event features Kim Gordon, best known as co-founder of the arty indie-rock band Sonic Youth. Gordon will create a “very intimate” evening of improvised performance with classically trained choreographer/curator Dimitri Chamblas. (March 4-5, 2019, American Swedish Institute, Mpls.)

Read the full article and Liquid Music line-up here.

Eight hands make light work for Third Coast Percussion

May 9, 2018
by Peter Margasak

“[Third Coast Percussion’s] collaborative spirit has already made them one of the best percussion ensembles in the country—and their upcoming projects could make them the biggest.”

“Third Coast Percussion are outstanding players, and an incredibly tight unit.”

“…unendingly buoyant personality—rigorous but friendly, never dumbing anything down.”

Many thanks to Peter Margasak of the Chicago Reader for this wonderful artist profile, concert preview, and in-depth look at many years of Third Coast’s creative and collaborative works. Read an excerpt below, or click here to read the full feature.

Last year Chicago quartet Third Coast Percussion won their first Grammy: Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, for a 2016 album of music by minimalist icon Steve Reich. Reich’s distinctively pulsing music has been part of Third Coast’s repertoire since the ensemble’s founding in 2005, and recently they’ve been invited to perform his work by prestigious institutions such as Columbia University and the Cleveland Museum of Art. For their next season, beginning this fall, TCP will take several programs on the road, including a selection of music by another minimalist icon, Philip Glass – he’s even writing a piece for the group, his first ever for a percussion ensemble.

Third Coast Percussion are also thriving in territory less well traveled by new-music groups. In September 2018 at the Harris Theater, they’ll premiere a collaboration with Hubbard Street Dance that also involves Los Angeles-based choreographers and movement artists Emma Portner, Lil Buck, and Jon Boogz–TCP will perform commissioned music composed by pop polymath Devonté Hynes, aka Blood Orange.

Since 2013, when TCP landed a five-year appointment as an ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame, the four members—David Skidmore, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and Sean Connors—have been able to support themselves solely through the group. Collaborations with artists famous outside the world of classical music—the upcoming project with Hynes, for instance, or their 2015 partnership with Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, who composed the multimedia work Wild Sound for them—always have the potential to bring in new listeners in large numbers. It’s difficult to determine why one group succeeds and another fails, but TCP have gotten this far in large part due to their self-sufficient business model and cooperative creative process.

From a listener’s point of view, though, the important methodology is musical, not administrative. In 2013, when Third Coast launched their Emerging Composers Partnership to solicit new work from young talent, they stipulated that the process be rigorously interactive. Customarily a composer writes a commissioned piece, sends the group the score, and then gets together with the musicians for a few rehearsals before the premiere. By contrast, TCP ask each composer in this program to visit them at their Ravenswood studio (in a building they share with the likes of Eighth Blackbird and Ensemble dal Niente) at least three times during the writing process, so they can all workshop it together. Currently they’re partnering with composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Ayanna Woods (sister of rising soul star Jamila Woods). Even when Third Coast work with more established composers, they prefer to take a hands-on approach whenever possible.

Third Coast Percussion are outstanding players, and an incredibly tight unit,” says Tom Welsh, director of performing arts at the Cleveland Museum of Art, one of the co-commissioners of TCP’s latest work Paddle to the Sea. “They have that exceedingly rare talent to be able to make appealing even the most difficult or unusual musics. This must be due, in no small part, to their unendingly buoyant personality—rigorous but friendly, never dumbing anything down.”

This versatility and accessibility augur well for Third Coast’s latest project with Hubbard Street Dance. In 2014 the group played Reich’s Drumming to accompany the troupe’s performance of Jirí Kylián’s dance piece Falling Angels, but their upcoming collaborations will take TCP far from that familiar ground: working with Hynes and with Portner, who’s done videos and tour pieces for Justin Bieber, definitely widens the group’s range of artistic partners. “Third Coast are, collectively, an undeniably brilliant group of music artists who collaborate very often,” Portner says. “They are already so open to our ideas and really know what it takes to collaborate successfully. I know they will bring Dev’s ideas to life and beyond. I’m excited for all of these elements to come together.”

Third Coast will no doubt continue to find even bigger opportunities with an even wider range of presenters and collaborators, but their members maintain a level-headed attitude about the niche position of classical music in the larger world—they know that most of the people they reach as their audience grows will be newcomers to these sounds. Because they take pleasure in introducing listeners to what they love, rather than getting frustrated that they still have to do so, they’re in a great position to enjoy a long and healthy career.


Voyage Chicago: Interview with David Skidmore

May 15, 2018
by Roger Brown

Roger Brown from Voyage Chicago recently sat down with David to talk about Third Coast’s history and current work. Read the full interview below.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
After winning their first Grammy in 2017 for an album of music by iconic modern composer Steve Reich, Third Coast Percussion has expanded the scope of their classically-trained quartet to include original work by the ensemble. With the release of their latest album, Paddle to the Sea, Third Coast’s compositions feature prominently, along with the ensemble’s take on music by composers Philip Glass and Jacob Druckman. Traditional Shona music from Zimbabwe on the mbira (a hand-held thumb piano with an incredibly rich sound) rounds out the album.

Please tell us about your art.
Third Coast Percussion’s newest show (and album) Paddle to the Sea is a multimedia performance that looks at our relationship to the bodies of water that connect our lives. Third Coast Percussion composed an entirely new soundtrack to the film which they perform live, interspersed with other music inspired impressions of water and waterways.

As with all of Third Coast’s projects, Paddle to the Sea is at turns virtuosic, exciting, fun, and beautiful. The plot of the movie—a young boy carves a figure in a canoe, and that figure travels from Lake Superior through the Great Lakes and out to the Atlantic Ocean—is simple but very touching.

With lighting design and projections by Chicago-based Joseph Burke, and stage direction by Chicago-based Leslie Buxbaum Danzig, the Paddle to the Sea show is an immersive and engaging 70 minutes.

Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
Yeah this is a big challenge. I’d say: don’t buy into the idea that artists have to be disorganized, or bad businesspeople. If you are organized, good at managing your time, and work hard, you can create stable environment that will allow you to be creative, and to make money doing what you’re passionate about.

Click here for the original article.

Concert Preview: Chicago Premiere of Paddle to the Sea on Sunday Evening

May 8, 2018
by Louis Harris

Chicago’s Grammy Award winning Third Coast Percussion will be offering a water-themed program that includes the Chicago premiere of their new piece, Paddle to the Sea at Thalia Hall on May 13, 7:30 pm. The four members worked together to compose the piece to be a live soundtrack of the 1966 film of the same name, which was adapted from a children’s book.

To perform the piece, the ensemble will be making noise from a large and interesting array of objects. These include traditional percussive instruments, such as drums, bells, synthesizer, and a marimba, as well as unusual objects, such ceramic floor tiles and a bowl filled with water and a submerged microphone.

Other water themed works on the program include Jacob Druckman’s Reflections on the Nature of Water for solo marimba. Third Coast Percussion will also be performing its own arrangement of Philip Glass’s 12 Pieces for Ballet, which was originally composed for piano, and Chigwaya, a piece in the African Shona tradition arranged by Zimbabwean musician Musekiwa Chingodza. Both pieces are derived from water themes.

The Chicago premiere of Paddle to the Sea will be presented at Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St., Chicago, IL 60608, on Sunday, May 13, 2018, at 7:30 pm. Purchase tickets here.

Album review: Paddle to the Sea

May 1, 2018

“As usual, the performance is perfection personified.”

As a child growing up in Michigan, I remember reading Paddle to the Sea in fourth grade. It is a children’s book written in 1941 by Holling C. Holling, and it tells the story of a toy canoe and its passenger that travels through the Great Lakes. Third Coast Percussion has assembled a collection of water-inspired music composed by themselves and by Philip Glass (movements from Aguas de Amazonia) and Jacob Druckman (Reflections on the Nature of Water). A traditional song, “Chigwaya,” was arranged by Third Coast’s mentor, Musekiwa Chingodza. This album is my favorite of Third Coast’s so far. Paddle to the Sea was composed by Third Coast as a film score to be performed with the 1966 film adaptation of the book. The music uses ceramic tiles, pitched desk bells, marimba, and other instruments to create a nostalgic work that is dark and dreamy and fits perfectly alongside the other works on the recording. As usual, the performance is perfection personified; rhythms perfectly together and emotional palettes well thought out. I eagerly await their next endeavor.

Radiant Pulses: Third Coast Percussion and beyond

April 20, 2018

During our visit to Vancouver, David sat down with Vancouver New Music’s Giorgio Magnanensi to talk about the genesis of Augusta Read Thomas’s Resounding Earth, collaborating with Augusta and with other composers, and more. Click here to listen to the interview and to a fantastic playlist of percussion music curated by VNM’s Heather McDermid.


From ethereal to frenzied, Eugene Symphony and Third Coast Percussion deliver wonderful kaleidoscope of sound

April 22, 2018
by Terry McQuilkin

“…stunningly virtuosic…”

“…a kaleidoscope of orchestral tone color…”

Concertgoers with sharp memories recall that the Eugene Symphony’s current subscription season opened in September with a short, colorful work by American composer Augusta Read Thomas. The composer returned to Eugene last week for a second residency that culminated Thursday with the West Coast premiere of a full-length work co-commissioned by the Eugene Symphony and the Chicago Philharmonic.

Thomas’ Sonorous Earth is a 32-minute concerto, not for one instrument, but for 300.

Three hundred bells, that is, precisely arrayed on racks, tables and the floor, played by Third Coast Percussion, a stunningly virtuosic quartet based in the Chicago area. Employing Chinese gongs, Burma spinning bells and dozens more, Sonorous Earth, the composer’s website suggests, can be “imagined as a United-Nations-of-Resonances.”

The soloists began each movement by introducing the musical motives and bell sounds central to that movement. The first and third movements began relatively slowly and softly, allowing the listener to bathe in the beauty of each bell’s timbre.

When the orchestra joined in and tempos picked up, melodic threads built on semiquavers were traded quickly from one instrument to the next, resulting in a kind of kaleidoscope of orchestral tone color.

Kudos to music director Francesco Lecce-Chong and the members of the orchestra, who delivered the careening and perilously syncopated lines with energy and (save for a few dicey moments in the third movement) an impressive degree of ensemble precision.

The serene second movement proved the most satisfying for this listener. Using an array of 26 prayer bells (or rin bells) and 12 crotales, soloists David Skidmore, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and Sean Connors imparted a sense of timelessness, as the composer’s wordless poetry unfolded peacefully.

In the final half-minute,­ the musicians used a stirring motion on the edge of each rin bell to produce a constant, ethereal ringing sound.

The last movement employed every bell on stage, and Third Coast’s frenzied playing on everything metallic in sight produced not so much a “United-Nations-of-Resonances,” as a musical Tower of Babel, as each bell’s resonance was eclipsed by the tintinnabulation of the next. Although the orchestra reiterated a series of eight dissonant “pillar chords” multiple times, imparting a modicum of unity, the dramatic arc didn’t seem to be headed anywhere in particular, until the soloists moved to the front of the stage and simultaneously struck tubular chimes, as if to place the words “The End” on screen.

Read the full concert review here.