Student Success

Percussion students earn honours in international competition

Two University of Lethbridge percussion students can consider themselves among the best in the world after finishing in the top four in their competitions at the recent 2017 Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Blake Davenport, a fourth-year student, came in fourth place on solo marimba and Taylor Murphy, a third-year student, finished second on solo multi-percussion.

“This is a major accomplishment for these students and the U of L,” says Adam Mason, the U of L’s director of percussion and one of the leaders of PASIC. “They competed with graduate and undergraduate students from some of the top music universities around the world.”

“I’m very happy coming in second,” says Murphy. “For my first time going, coming in second was a good feeling.”

“I was really happy with the way I played,” says Davenport, who competed at PASIC for the first time last year. “I was up against people who’ve been studying percussion since they were eight years old so it’s nice to know I can keep up having studied for only five years.”

The annual PASIC convention draws thousands of percussionists, including students, performers, composers and drum makers from around the world. Murphy says the convention is like the San Diego Comic Con for percussionists. Some percussionists prepare all year for the chance to perform at the convention. Competing at such an event isn’t for the faint of heart. In Davenport’s case, the judge of his performance just happened to be the composer of the piece he’d chosen to perform.

“Competing is a little nerve-wracking,” says Davenport. “You’re surrounded by professional percussionists from all over the world and they know how a piece is supposed to sound.”

“Some are fresh out of high school and doing the same pieces you are,” says Murphy. “It’s nerve-wracking but it’s exhilarating. I broke out of my shell to do this and I’m glad I did because it opened so many doors.”

Both Davenport and Murphy grew up in Calgary and had some experience in percussion before coming to the U of L. Murphy was part of the Calgary Stampede Showband for seven years.

“I knew right out of high school that I wanted to study percussion,” says Murphy. “I knew the U of L had one of the best percussion programs, probably in Canada, and Adam (Mason) has a great reputation for being an amazing professor. He loves what he does, he’s very knowledgeable and he and I share a drum corps background.”

Davenport started playing the drum set at age eight and began percussion music when he was in high school. He planned to take a year off after graduating and then go to university in his home town. But before deciding, he took his mother’s suggestion to participate in the U of L’s Be a Student for a Day.

“I got to watch a Global Drums rehearsal and I was like ‘Oh, yeah, I’m coming here,’” says Davenport. “There was no way I was going anywhere else.”

Percussion students learn to play at least 50 unique instruments, including cultural types of drums like Taiko, African, Polynesian and Chinese. The program gives students an opportunity to travel to learn drumming in other countries. Both Davenport and Murphy have been to Hawaii with the Global Drums group and another trip to China is planned for June.

Davenport will be performing his grad recital on Saturday, March 24 at 2 p.m. in the U of L’s Recital Hall. Everyone is welcome.

“I’m going to hit some stuff in a pre-decided order,” he says, tongue in cheek.

The next Global Drums concert is scheduled for April 6 and 7 in the University Theatre at 7:30 p.m.