The University of Kansas School of Music’s percussion program is a vibrant, talented, and supportive community of musicians. With around 20 percussion majors and minors ranging from undergraduate to doctoral level, the KU percussion area welcomes students as diverse as the music they aspire to perform, study, and teach. The percussion faculty aim to develop passionate fluid, skillful, and critical thinking musicians with the tools to advocate for their artistic passions in myriad ways. KU alumni have distinguished themselves across the country as professional performers and educators.
KU Percussion Department Offers
- A comprehensive approach to the study and performance of percussion in a variety of styles and genres including solo percussion, chamber music, large ensemble, Jazz, and non-western percussion.
- Dynamic and diverse learning experiences in private lessons, chamber groups, master classes, large ensembles, and workshop settings.
- Numerous percussion ensembles and frequent performance opportunities both on and off-campus with KU’s award-winning large ensembles.
- A renowned lineup of guest artists
- A flexible Music Enterprise Certificate for graduate and undergraduate students, designed to provide experience and understanding in marketing, entrepreneurship within the music industry.
- A strong learning community, focused on honing performance skills, enhancing critical listening, and developing a lexicon within which constructive criticism supports team building and mutual reinforcement.
Recent Guest Artists
- Robert van Sice: Professor of Percussion, Yale University
- Tom Freer: Assistant Principal Timpanist/ Section Percussion, The Cleveland Orchestra
- Thomas Kotcheff: Award-winning composer, LA
- Andy Akiho: Virtuoso percussionist and composer, LA
- So Percussion: Internationally renowned percussion quartet
- Arx Duo, Percussion Duo based in Seattle, WA
- Antonio Sanchez: Grammy-winning drum set artist and composer, NYC
- Bolokada Conde: Master drummer from Kissidougou, Guinea, an expert of Malinke or Mandinka rhythms
- Ayano Kataoka, Professor of Percussion, University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Scott Christian, National Symphony Orchestra
- Will James: Principal Percussionist, St. Louis Symphony
- Albert "Tootie" Heath: Jazz drum set legend
- New Morse Code: Cello/percussion duo
KU Percussion Group
All KU percussion students are members of the KU Percussion Group, a chamber percussion ensemble that explores and performs unconducted chamber music of the rapidly expanding percussion repertoire. The Group takes advantage of the stylistic and sonic breadth that the relatively young medium of percussion chamber music engenders, performing music that ranges from classics of the percussive canon from composers such as John Cage and Iannis Xenakis to collaborations with composers on new repertoire. KUPG members will develop their percussive technique and collaborative musical skills through the study of a diverse array of percussion chamber works and mixed chamber ensemble pieces. The group is acutely aware of the importance of new creations for our repertoire and seeks to promote openness to the performance of new compositions. KUPG members engage in a dynamic dialogue between young composers and young performers in hopes of providing an environment of learning and encouragement for both: it is an important aim of the group to be intimately involved in the process of creation in today’s musical world. KUPG performs at least two on-campus concerts of percussion chamber music of the 20th and 21st centuries each year, with additional performances on and off-campus.
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Drums of Winter: John Luther Adams
KU West African Drum Ensemble (KUWADE)
The KU West African Drum Ensemble (KUWADE) won the Percussive Arts Society’s World Percussion Ensemble Competition in 2017 and performed at the 2017 PASIC. They play traditional music from three main areas in West Africa: djembe and dunun drums from the ancient empire of Mali, sabar drums from the Wolof of Senegal, and the Ga drums of Ghana. The primary focuses of the group are developing healthy techniques, playing traditional parts, solos, and improvisation ideas, learning about the cultural context of the music, and finding joy and excellence in playing.
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KU Steel Band
The Brazilian Steel (KU Steel Band) performs music of Trinidad and Tobago’s dynamic “Panorama” culture, focusing on calypso and soca styles, blended seamlessly with Brazilian Samba. The band also performs compositions written for the group and music in a wide range of popular and classical genres. The role of the steel band within Trinidadian history and culture is also foregrounded through readings and discussions.
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The KU Drumline is a part of the University of Kansas Marching Jayhawks. They perform during football halftime, provide pre-game entertainment, and also perform during KU basketball games. This performing ensemble is open to students in all majors.
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KU Drum Set Studio
The University of Kansas School of Music’s drum set studio is comprised of over 20 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music majors, minors, and non-majors. The program is based in the cultural and fundamental study of drum set in historical and modern jazz, pop, r&b, gospel, rock, funk, fusion, rap, trap, Electronic, EDM, Drum’nBass, and other genres. World Percussion studies are customized per student with focus in hand drumming techniques including Afro-Cuban, Middle Eastern (Turkish, Egyptian) Afro-Brazilian, Peruvian, Spanish, and Indian including both northern Tabla and southern Kanjira. KU Jazz groups and individual students have distinguished national credentials, winning 22 Down Beat Student Music Awards since 1992. With over 3 big bands, 12 small group combos in jazz and popular music, Afro-Cuban ensemble, and steel band, there is a place for everyone. Additionally, the Lawrence and Kansas City music scenes offer a variety of out of school performance/gigging opportunities!
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Undergraduate Audition Requirments
Applicants for BM in Performance, BME in Music Education/ Music Therapy, and BA in Music must perform in all major areas listed below. This list is the minimum required audition for the undergraduate level.
- Marimba or other mallet instruments: Two contrasting solos, at least one of which must be four mallets
- Snare Drum: one concert solo and one rudimental solo, rolls and rudiments selected at random
- Timpani: One solo or etude, tuning of intervals
- Sight Reading