Beta Percussion Institute: crossroads of performance and composition

New concert series and seminars spotlight contemporary percussion music

By GARY FERRINGTON

The University of Oregon School of Music and Dance, usually empty and quiet during the dog days of summer, is about to become a vibrant soundscape of performers and composers attending the first Beta Percussion International Institute August 4-10 — and you can listen in.

UO Percussion Studio. Photo: Gary Ferrington.

The week-long program, organized by artistic director Pius Cheung and co-director Eriko Daimo, focuses on both performance and composing, or arranging, music for percussion. “I noticed a surge of performer/composers in the past decade and I wanted this seminar to be a place for people to feel free to share their works, or begin their journey in writing,” Cheung, who teaches percussion on the UO music school faculty, told Artswatch. “The primary objective is not to turn percussionists into composers, but … for performers to play with the insight and understanding of a composer.”

The Institute has attracted participants from Hong Kong, mainland China, Japan, Philippines, Austria, and a dozen American states. In Eugene they will be attending work sessions to explore, experiment, and make revisions in their music along the way. The program includes clinics addressing practice techniques, memorization and creative analysis, master classes with faculty, and hands-on workshops exploring topics such as improvisation and composing. Individual students will also have private lessons with guest faculty. UO instructor of percussion Sean Wagoner serves as Director of Operations. The next Institute is proposed for 2020.

“Art is always evolving, as it is a reflection of everything around us, past, present and future,” Cheung notes. “Therefore, in a certain sense, art/music is always going to be in the ‘beta testing’ stage.”

A distinguished faculty has been brought together to work with this summer’s participants. Mentors and students will give four free public concerts in the University of Oregon’s venerable Beall Concert Hall. Those unable to attend in person can view performances live-streamed online.

Pius Cheung and Eriko Daimo. Photo: Beta Percussion.

Concert 1 – Saturday, August 4 (8pm PDT)

Pius Cheung and Eriko Daimo perform a program featuring a mix of solo and duo works.

  • Kuusi for solo marimba – Sibelius (arr. Eriko Daimo)
  • Nian3 for solo bass drum – Pius Cheung (recently performed at Chamber Music Northwest)
  • The Awakening for solo marimba (World Premiere) – Hirotake Kitakata
    Nocturne in f minor – Pius Cheung
  • Keyboard Concerto in d minor – J.S. Bach (adapted for marimba duo)
  • Princess Chang Ping – Pius Cheung, Daimo (marimba), Cheung (piano).
  • Verano Porteno – Astor Piazzolla for marimba duo (arr. Pius Cheung)


Pius Cheung and Eriko Daimo perform Astor Piazzolla’s ‘Verano Porteno.’

Pius Cheung’s recent compositions include Allegro Brutale for solo marimba, commissioned by Dame Evelyn Glennie, Heaven and Earth, a 20-minute tone poem for the Ju Percussion Group and a marimba concerto for the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra. Cheung is the chair of the School of Music and Dance percussion area.

Award-winning marimbist Eriko Daimo, a visiting faculty member at The Juilliard School Pre-College Division, has been presenting a series of masterclasses at New York University since 2013.

Casey Cangelosi and Michael Udow. Photo: Beta Percussion.

Concert 2 – Monday, August 6 (8pm PDT)

Casey Cangelosi performs his solo pieces and Eriko Daimo, Kana Funayama, David Lee, Rachel Liu, and Reese Maultsby play compositions by Michael Udow that have become standards in the field of percussion.

Casey Cangelosi, Director of Percussion Studies at James Madison University, has been called the “Paganini of Percussion.” Multi-award winning Michael Udow is a University of Michigan Emeritus Professor who has a special interest in collaborative work such as that with visual artist Muriel Magenta on the prize-winning film, Token City, and subsequent museum installation. He has also collaborated for over 40 years with visual artist Rita Blitt on sound sculptures and films, including Abyss of Time for film and percussion.


‘White Pines’ by Michael Burritt, performed by the Eastman Percussion Ensemble.

Concert 3 – Thursday, August 9 (8pm PDT)

Michael Burritt, Eriko Daimo, Kana Funayama, Elise Lui, Rachel Liu, and Bevis Ng perform works composed by or dedicated to Burritt.

  • The Endings of Things, from a Distance (2018) – Matthew Curlee
  • The Islands (2013) and Sara’s Song (2005) – Michael Burritt
  • Burritt Variations (2013) – Alejandro Viñao
  • Sweet Dreams and Time Machines (2017) – Michael Burritt
  • White Pines (2015) – Michael Burritt

Michael Burritt. Photo: Air Force Bands.

Michael Burritt is Professor of Percussion and head of the department at Eastman School of Music. In addition to being in demand as a composer and performer, Burritt is also known for his product design and consultation and has developed his own line of signature marimba mallets. His compositions have become a part of the standard percussion repertoire and are often required works in international competitions, according to a SOMD press release.

Concert 4 – Friday, August 10 (2pm PDT)

Called a “wild time” and “anything goes” event in the program, this Student Marathon Concert features music composed during the seminar by participants from the U.S, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Austria, and Venezuela.

Beta Percussion International Institute concerts are free and take place at Beall Concert Hall 961 East 18th Avenue, Eugene. Live stream link: https://music.uoregon.edu/live-stream .

Gary Ferrington is a Senior Instructor Emeritus, Instructional Systems Technology, College of Education, University of Oregon. He is an advocate for new music and serves as project coordinator for Oregon ComposersWatch.

Want to read more about Oregon music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!
Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.