Banging A Drum For Percussion

Bring percussion to the fore (a plea to music festival organisers)

As the first ever percussion specialist adjudicator member of the Federation and having recently completed adjudicating percussion classes for four festivals, I would like to enlighten other festival organisers about percussion and how popular it has become over the past few years. This has been helped by the work and popularity of Evelyn Glennie and Adrian Spillett, the first percussionist to win the BBC Young Musician award.

The percussion family has a huge collection of instruments. In fact it is so large, no-one knows how many instruments there are. it is also the world’s oldest family of instruments, covering music from many different cultures – West Indian steel bands, African drumming and Irish folk to name but a few. So with an increasingly wide choice of percussion instruments and areas to specialise in there are now more percussion students than ever before.

Percussionists hold equal status in an orchestra and the same is true of drum kit players in a rock group or jazz orchestra. However percussion -which covers all instruments where the sound is produced by striking – is often looked down upon by some musicians. How often have you heard a percussion section in an orchestra being described as the “kitchen sink department”? Adjudicator and festival organiser members of the Federation can help change this misconception by bringing percussion to the fore. Percussion instruments are not just there for beating out a rhythm. Many sounds and emotions can be created from these instruments by the way they are struck, stroked, scraped or even shaken. As players, percussionists not only have to think about creating a good sound and playing musically, they must be able to have the ability to listen and work within a percussion section and with other musicians to become a good percussion player.

So my plea to musical festival organisers is: why not add a section for percussion as part of your next festival? Give enthusiastic percussion entrants a chance to take part. With ever broadening interest in the area and more students than ever before, you will have made a wise decision and done your bit to promote this area of music making.

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