Oberlin Blogs

Out with a Bang: Percussion at Oberlin

November 8, 2017

Rachel Gibson ’20

It’s crazy, but it has been a long time since Oberlin has had a classical percussion major who’s female. I am currently the only woman in my studio, and I am loving every second of it. We are all a big family, which means I practically have eight other brothers! The studio is so close because we spend so much time together by playing, practicing, and hanging out.

Percussion studio with cymbals, drums, marimbas, and timpani.
Our wonderful percussion studio.

In fact, we even eat together! Every Tuesday, the percussion studio has a tradition of what we call “Oberlin Percussion Group Chicken Night.” Now, the title may be slightly misleading. We don’t actually eat chicken every Tuesday. Chicken Night is a very old studio tradition where there used to be chicken served at whatever dining hall former percussion majors went to on the day that they ate together. Fast forward to the present, all of us just eat what’s on the menu. We usually meet at 6:00 P.M. and walk down to the Lord-Saunders dining hall. Ultimately, Chicken Night is a time for us to bond and get to know each other. We talk about about percussion, laugh about percussion, and simply share what has been going on in our lives. The studio always has something interesting to talk about!

Last year, when I was a first-year, we all went to the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) and took turns running a booth to showcase Oberlin to prospective students. We represented Oberlin Conservatory and talked to high school students about all the opportunities our school can offer them. It was a wonderful time to meet new people who love percussion as much as I do, and it was so fun to talk all about Oberlin. We also had a get-together dinner with past and present studio members and our teacher, Michael Rosen. My studio has an impressive list of very successful alumni!

A girl and two guys standing by the Oberlin booth at a convention.
My fellow percussionists (Jackson and Eli) and I at PASIC in 2016. We are proudly standing by the Oberlin Conservatory booth.
Many percussionists gathered around a table for dinner.
Oberlin percussion studio members, past and present.

During the holiday season, we have two more traditions: Secret Santa and Marimba Christmas. For Secret Santa, we draw names out of a hat and before the semester ends we have a Christmas party where we exchange gifts and try to guess who was our “secret Santa.” Some gifts are handmade, and some are just funny. Last year, I received a mini bonsai tree planting kit and yummy chocolate. As for Marimba Christmas, we all play holiday music that is arranged for marimbas. We play in the Conservatory’s student lounge the week before finals. All the students love it! Our percussion teacher, Michael Rosen, even brings his huge, furry dog for the students to pet. The studio wears Christmas sweaters and Santa hats, and we decorate the marimbas with lights and garlands. After that performance, we load up the instruments and play for the residents at Kendal at Oberlin. It’s a hoot!

I love my percussion studio because everyone is so supportive. There’s a very healthy atmosphere. We all go to each other’s concerts and recitals, and there’s never a dull moment with them. I know for a fact that there will always be someone who is there for me, no matter what. They are basically my extended family and are all ready to help you and give you advice when times are rough. I learn so much from all of them, and I am so lucky to know them.  

Members of the percussion studio sitting on steps together.
Our studio picture last May at Mr. Rosen's house. He made us pizza, and we are happy!

So that's the brief overview and introduction to the percussion department here at Oberlin. More detailed posts to come on what we are up to.

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