Eriko Daimo​

Beta Percussion Institute: crossroads of performance and composition

New concert series and seminars spotlight contemporary percussion music


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.”


Delgani String Quartet: Commissioning tomorrow’s classics

Eugene quartet's spring season nurtures new music alongside classics


“If you’re a musician today and you’re not commissioning new works, or at the very least working with living composers on works they’ve already composed, then you’re really just treading water,” Delgani String Quartet Artistic Director Wyatt True tells ArtsWatch. “Without collaboration between performer and composer, the development of music goes nowhere.”

True, whose ensemble premieres three commissioned works this season, observes that audiences “love new music” and that even very unexpected contemporary works can be positively received if the audience is prepared to make sense of the music they are hearing. Fortunately for the performance of most Delgani commissions, the composers are available to share insights into their music with audiences.

“Don’t get me wrong, we love playing Beethoven too!” True says. “But even Beethoven’s music would not be here today if no one ever took an interest in it. Besides, how great is it to be able to actually speak with the composer about their work? Imagine all of the interpretive issues that could be resolved instantly if we could talk to Mozart or Beethoven.”

Delgani at the Eugene Jazz Station. Photo: Gary Ferrington.

This March, Delgani will premiere new commissions by Oregon composer Greg Steinke and Toronto-based Roydon Tse, both winners of the ensemble’s Call for Scores. Later in the season the group premieres a new piece by University of Oregon percussion faculty member Pius Cheung and a regional premiere of a work by Canadian composer Alice Ping Yee Ho.