The Northwestern University Percussion Ensemble, led by associate professor She-e Wu, recently performed in a showcase concert at the 2017 Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) in Indianapolis.
The Percussion Ensemble, which includes a mix of 21 undergraduate and graduate students from the Bienen School, performed as winner of the 2017 PASIC International Percussion Ensemble Competition. Held each spring, the competition aims to encourage, promote, and reward musical excellence among middle school/junior high, high school, nonprofit, and collegiate percussion ensembles. This year marked Northwestern’s fourth time winning the competition.
Professor Wu also appeared in the opening concert at this year’s PASIC, performing Paul Lansky’s Touch and Go, Concerto for Percussion and Wind Ensemble with the Northwestern University Symphonic Band. Conducted by Bienen School associate director of bands Shawn Vondran, the Symphonic Band previously performed Touch and Go with Wu in October at the Bienen School.
Days after their PASIC performance, members of the Percussion Ensemble presented a concert of music by Steve Reich during the composer’s second residency as winner of the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition. Students were able to interact with Reich and fine-tune pieces for the program, which included Nagoya Marimbas, Music for Pieces of Wood, Sextet, and Mallet Quartet.
Wu said of Reich’s feedback for the students, “He was very complimentary. In rehearsal, Steve fell in love with the Mallet Quartet,” which prompted a switch to close the concert with that piece. “He said the students were ‘nailing it’ and that the middle movement was beautiful.”
During intermission of the concert, Reich joined Wu on stage to answer questions about his early experiences with percussion, musical influences and inspiration, and even changes to percussion instruments that have affected his compositions.
A second all-Reich concert was held the following evening in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, featuring the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble, Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Saxophone Ensemble. The program included Radio Rewrite, Pulse, New York Counterpoint, and Tehillim.