Ethos Percussion Group performs, educates

Veronica Devore

Lawrence hosted the Ethos Percussion Group last weekend as part of the Performing Arts at Lawrence concert series. The New York City based group performed five works for percussion ensemble, including one in collaboration with Lawrence percussion students.
In addition to giving a concert April 1, the group hosted a drumming circle and a master class during their time at Lawrence. They expressed admiration at the quality of the Lawrence Conservatory’s percussion program and were eager to interact with and teach students.
Trey Files, a longstanding member of the group, composed the piece “See/Change” to be performed by Ethos and up to four percussion students. Four members of Lawrence’s own percussion ensemble, LUP, joined Ethos for this piece that expands upon a single syncopated rhythmic figure.
In addition to Files’ composition, Ethos also performed works by John La Barbera, Glen Valez, Steve Reich and Samir Chatterjee. Each piece used a different combination of instruments, from marimba to snare drum to conch shell.
Reich’s piece, entitled “Drumming I,” requires all four musicians to perform together on a single long woodblock. The resulting effect is somewhat hypnotic, as each performer plays a slightly different elaboration on the same rhythmic idea.
Chatterjee’s composition, “Rite Rhythm,” was commissioned by Ethos in 1999 and is designed to reflect the percussion tradition around the world. The piece was originally written in traditional Indian music notation, but Ethos member Eric Phinney transcribed it to Western notation so the group could perform it more easily.
Ethos currently maintains an extremely active schedule, comprised of both performance and educational engagements. They consistently work with students in New York City public schools, teaching through both concert and classroom activities. In addition, Ethos is an ensemble-in-residence at a New York high school for the performing arts. Their dedication to educating young musicians is evident in the organization World Beat, which they created in 2004 to benefit arts education.
All members of Ethos are active performers as well; individually, they have performed with Philip Glass, Yo-Yo Ma, and the New York City Ballet, among many others. Their regular performance schedule includes venues and universities across the country, from New York to Idaho. They perform in Wisconsin fairly regularly, and — in addition to Appleton — they have been to the La Crosse and Milwaukee areas in recent months.
Ethos’ weekend at Lawrence was an inspirational and educational experience for those who attended the concert and for the students who had the opportunity to work directly with the group. Their commitment to quality performance and to the education of young musicians has made Ethos an extremely sought-after ensemble on the percussion scene.

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