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Marimba Masters Festival And Reunion

by Lauren Vogel Weiss



The Center for Mallet Percussion Research at Kutztown University, which hosted a tribute to the music of Clair Omar Musser last November, will once again present a special program in 2016. On November 5-6, CMPR will present the Marimba Masters Festival and Reunion in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. The event is being organized by Dana Kimble, Frank Kumor, and Will Rapp.


The Marimba Masters was an ensemble comprised of students attending the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York in the 1950s. Founded in 1954 by Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame member Gordon Peters, who went on to become the Principal Percussionist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Marimba Masters was one of the first percussion ensembles to gain national recognition with performances on television programs like Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (1955) and The Ed Sullivan Show (1958.)


In addition to Peters, other former members scheduled to be in Kutztown are Ron Barnett, John H. Beck, Norman Fickett, John Galm, Stan Leonard, Vivian Emery Speca, Peter Tanner, and Joel Thome. Peters, who studied with Musser, arranged dozens of pieces for the ensemble, scoring them for five marimbas, xylophone, and string bass.


The festival will begin Saturday morning with a lecture about the history and accomplishments of the Marimba Masters by Jeff Calissi, Associate Professor of Music at Eastern Connecticut State University, who wrote his dissertation on the ensemble.


Later that morning, there will be a performance by the Marimba Masters, Jr. under the direction of Greg Giannascoli. Comprised of middle school and high school students from New York and New Jersey who attend the Pre-College Program at Juilliard, they will perform "Ritual Fire Dance" by Manuel de Falla (arr. Mitch Peters) and "Finlandia" by Jean Sibelius (Gordon Peter's edition of Musser's arrangement). The Marimba Masters Jr. concert will also include a few other new arrangements by Gordon Peters, along with their regular repertoire.


After lunch, Bill Cahn and Gordon Stout will moderate a panel discussion featuring several alumni of the Marimba Masters. What a fantastic opportunity to hear percussion history from those who created it!


The Saturday afternoon concert will feature the University of Central Florida Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of Jeff Moore and Thad Anderson, both members of the PAS Board of Advisors. Several more new arrangements by Gordon Peters will be premiered during this performance.

Michael Burritt and the Eastman Percussion Ensemble will perform during the Saturday evening concert in Schaeffer Auditorium. Their program will reflect both the historical and contemporary aspects of marimba.


The final concert will be on Sunday afternoon and feature percussion ensembles from the University of Central Florida, Kutztown University (under the direction of Frank Kumor), and a special performance of a Marimba Masters Alumni ensemble, who are scheduled to perform "Chorale for Marimba Quartet" by Robert Resseger and the "Polka" from Dimitri Shostakovich's The Golden Age. The Grand Finale will combine all three groups, including 18 mallet players, playing "Russian Sailor's Dance" from The Red Poppy Suite by Reinhold Gliere. Make plans to stay for a very special encore!


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Marimba Masters Festival And Reunion

November 5 – November 6, 2016

Center for Mallet Percussion Research at Kutztown University
15200 Kutztown Rd, Kutztown, Pennsylvania 19530



This article reprinted with the permission of The Percussive Arts Society, October 20th issue of "Rhythm! Scene"