Program Overview

Percussion Studies

Percussion studies at Oberlin are nurturing as well as intense and stimulating. Mr. Rosen, a full-time resident professor and active performer and clinician is committed to providing careful, rigorous instruction for every one of his students. A small studio, never exceeding 13 players, insures a great deal of attention for each percussionist's individual musical and technical development, as well as guaranteeing the maximum in individual performance opportunities. Oberlin has no graduate school, assuring its percussionists of playing opportunities in several ensembles including Ihe Oberlin Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Opera Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Brass Guild, Contemporary Music Ensemble, and the award-winning Oberlin Percussion Group that is dedicated to the presentation of contemporary music written for percussion. The Group often performs at the PAS International Convention. Other ensembles include the Symphonic Band, various jazz ensembles, the Collegium Musicurn, the Javanese Gamelon, the African Mandinka Ensemble, and the Trinidad Steel Band. At Oberlin, a primarily undergraduate institution, no teaching is done by graduate assistants; all classes and lessons at Oberlin are taught by professors.

Oberlin's percussion program stresses the development of technique and musicianship through the study of both contemporary solo literature and orchestral repertoire. A balance between pracrtice and performing is stressed. Students can expect to perform a broad range of music from Early Music through the Romantic symphonists (Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Berlioz) on to the modern composers (Stravinsky, Bartok, Hindemith) right up to the most contemporary composers (Xenakis, Berio, Finnissy, Fernyhough, Schwantner, Cage, Carter, Boulez, Crumb, and Ligeti).

Oberlin Percussion Group

Michael Rosen founded the OPG upon joining the Oberlin faculty in 1972. All percussion majors are members of the group and receive credit for the four hours per week of OPG rehearsals. OPG provides a forum for students to apply techniques learned in lessons, to hone their skills searching for the appropriate sound for a given situation, to learn the art of caring for instruments, and to discover diverse repertoire for the percussion ensemble. Perhaps most importantly, students acquire a keen sense of the dynamics of ensemble performance while gaining valuable experience. Compositions are conducted only if necessary and students are encouraged to play like other chamber music ensembles. "On each concert I usually program a composition of historical significance by early composers such as John Cage, Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison or Johanna Beyer. I also try to select music of various compositional types and take into consideration the variety of colors and timbres of which percussion is capable including electronic music elements." A major objective of the OPG lies in the area of premiering new compositions, and to this end Professor Rosen has commissioned more than 15 compositions by such composers as Lewis Nielson, Evan Hause, Ross Feller, Paul Cox, Randy Coleman, Dominique Lemaître, Richard Hoffman, Matthew Jenkins, Michael Dougherty, John Luther Adams, Dary John Mizelle, Edward Miller and Conrad Cummings. OPG has also presented the American premieres of many works, such as Harrison Birtwistle's For o, for o, the Hobbyhorse is Forgot, lannis Xenakis' Pleiades and Zythos, Voûtes by Michaël Levinas, Canzona da Sonare by Shin-ichi Matsushita, Marimbastück by Maki Ishii, Sunspot by Masao Endo, Darkness by Franco Donatoni, Con Luigi Dallapiccola by Luigi Nono, Metal Metal by Sven-David Sandström, Irama by John Roosendael, Ultimate Words by Param Vir, Imaginario by Luis de Pablo, Nocturnal Activities by Jan Buss, and Preludio by Riccardo Malipiero. In 1986, the OPG won the Percussive Arts Society Percussion Ensemble contest, and performed Persephassa by Xenakis at the PASIC in Washington D.C. and performed again in 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2001. Most recently, the OPG went on tour during spring 2001, performing at Yale University, Peabody Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, and Merkin Hall in New York City. For OPG's 2007 concert Amy Kaplan has written a piece especially for the group called the Coriolus Effect. OPG also plays "Marimba Christmas" at nursing homes in the area. We have excellent arrangements that serve to improve sight-reading, teach style and create a "studio-like" experience. The Oberlin Percussion Group has recorded on the Lumina, Opus One and CRI labels.


Clinics and Masterclasses


Oberlin students have had the opportunity to work with the finest percussionists and timpanists in the world in the exciting and stimulating atmosphere of clinics, masterclasses, and concerts. The list of artists who have appeared on campus reads like a Who's Who of the percussion world; Cloyd Duff (Timpani-Cleveland Orchestra), Saul Goodman (Timpani-New York Philharmonic), Fred Hinger (Timpani-Philadelphia Orchestra), Paul Yancich (Timpani-Cleveland Orchestra), Charles Owen (Percussionist-Philadelphia Orchestra), Richard Weiner (Percussionist-Cleveland Orchestra), Arnie Lang (Percussionist-New York Philharmonic), Michael Bookspan (Percussionist-Philadelphia Orchestra), Al Abel (Percussionist-Philadelphia Orchestra), Don Liuzzi (Timpanist-Philadelphia Orchestra), John Beck (Timpanist-Rochester Philharmonic), Duncan Patton (Timpanist-Metropolitan Opera), Frank Epstein (Percussionist-Boston Symphony), Earl Yowell (Timpanist-St. Paul Chamber Orchestra), Larry Snider (Percussionist-University of Akron), Mark Yancich (Timpanist-Atlanta Symphony), Tom Sherwood (Percussionist-Atlanta Symphony), AI Payson (Percussionist-Chicago Symphony), Michael Werner (Percussionist-Metropolitan Opera), Sal Rabbio (Timpanist-Detroit Symphony), Doug Howard (Percussionist-Dallas Symphony), Roland Kohloff (Timpanist-New York Philharmonic), Greg Beyer (Percussionist-Northern Illinois University), Bob Becker (Percussionist-Nexus), AI Otte (Percussionist-Percussion Group Cincinnati), Robert Van Sice (Marimba Player-Yale), Steve Schick (Percussionist- UCSD), Ian Wright (Percussionist-City of Birmingham Symphony, UK), Michael Udow (Percussionist-University of Michigan), JB Smith (Percussionist), Ted Piltzecker (Vibraphone Player), Michael Burritt (Marimba Player-Eastman School of Music), Ed Thigpen (Drumset Player), Nancy Zeltsman (Marimba Player-Boston University), Bill Moersch (Marimba Player-University of Illinois, Jamie Haddad (Percussionist), Glen Velez (Hand Drummer), David Shively (Percussionist), Morris Palter (Percussionist-University of Alaska, Greg Beyer (Percussionist-Northern Illinois University), Stu Gerber (Percussionist- University of Georgia) and Karen Ervin (Percussionist) represent some of the American percussionists who have appeared at Oberlin.
The lists extends far beyond the U.S., however, including such artists as Keiko Abe (Japan), Bent Lylloff (Percussionist-Denmark), François Dupin (Percussionist-France), Nebojsa Zivkovic (Marimba Player-Germany), Filippo Latanzi (Marimba Player-Italy), Frederick Macarez (Timpanist-Orchestre de Paris), Kevin Hathway (Percussionist-London Philharmonia), Peter Prommel (Percussionist-Holland), Emmanuel Séjourné (Marimba Player-France), Michael Quinn (Percussionist-Switzerland) Siegfried Fink (Percussionist-Germany), Kai Stensgaard (Marimba Player-Denmark), Allesandra Belloni (Hand Drummer-Italy), Jean Geoffroy (Percussionist-France), Pius Cheung (Marimba Player) and Jan Pustjens (Percussionist-Concertgebouw Orchestra-Holland). The Blackearth Percussion Ensemble performed here several times, and the Cincinnati Percussion Group regularly performs at Oberlin. Other groups that have performed at Oberlin include Nexus, So Percussion, Malmö Percussion Ensemble (Sweden), The Percussion Art Quartet (Germany), Kroumata (Sweden), the University of Sao Paulo Percussion Ensemble (Brazil), Origenes Percussion Duo (Holland), Tetraktis Ensemble (Italy), The Wooden Art Duo (Germany), ConText Performers Collective (Sylvia Smith & Ayano Kataoka), The Safri Duo (Denmark), Marimolin, and the Copenhagen Percussion Ensemble. In the fall of 2004 Sir Simon Rattle conducted a performance of Mahler's 4th Symphony.

Facilities And Equipment

The Conservatory building, an air-conditioned and soundproofed complex, contains 40 studios for private teaching, 10 classrooms, 173 practice rooms, 4 ensemble practice rooms, and 2 performance halls. Six of the largest practice rooms are reserved for the exclusive use of the percussion studio for practice and storage of personal equipment. In addition, Mr. Rosen's percussion studio is available at all times for individual and ensemble use. Students have access to an impressive array of standard professional quality instruments including four sets of timpani (Original Dresdens, 2 sets of Clevelander timpani, and Ludwig), a 20" piccolo and a 32" timpani, a 5 octave Adams as well as a Kori 5-octave concert marimba, 4 vibraphones, 4 xylophones, 3 sets of chimes, many snare drums and tom-toms (with calf heads) and a large collection of exotic percussion instruments such as dobachi, tuned gongs, almglocken, and Chinese tom-toms.

Another important aspect of the percussionist's craft stressed in the percussion program at Oberlin is in the use of calf heads. Classes are given regularly on the tucking, mounting, clearing, and maintenance of calf heads. Regular instruction is also given on the repair of calf tambourine heads, marimba mallet wrapping, and timpani stick making and covering. Be sure to check out the Programs section of the website. Here you can get a good idea of the type of music we perform at Oberlin and perhaps get a few ideas for your own recital.