By CHRIS NORTON
With a strong presence in the music program at Millersville University, the MU Percussion Ensemble has become a well-respected name among music lovers all throughout Lancaster. The tight-knit group comprises music majors and minors who have tirelessly worked for years, performing several concerts per year which cover very diverse genres in the musical spectrum. Director James Armstrong has now led the group for three years, bringing more opportunities every semester.
The MU Percussion Ensemble has performed alongside legends in the percussion world such as Tony Miceli, Gordon Stout, and John Peifer, while also taking part in the East Coast Percussion Ensemble Festival. Their talents as a whole have led some members to even pursue careers in the percussion field. Rich Klimowicz, Brian Doherty, and Matt Bracciante of the ensemble, created their own unique trio in the fall of 2011 entitled Portal Percussion, with an active presence in the community and around the region. They perform a wide range of contemporary and traditional works for all genres of percussion in several concerts each year, displaying their knowledge and talents that have been enhanced by joining the MU Percussion Ensemble. To learn more about Portal Percussion, you can visit their website at http://www.portalpercussion.com.
Recently, the ensemble has received more and more recognition from all over. With a continuously growing existence, the group has received invitations to such events as the first ever “Music for Everyone” Percussion Parade, taking place in downtown Lancaster on September 20th. With such a specific area of focus, it is understandable how a small group of percussionists may struggle to make their presence known. However, the MU Percussion Ensemble valiantly pushes past the boundaries of a local group, and reaches goals beyond localities to establish themselves as professionals.
Director James Armstrong states, “Over the last several semesters, the Millersville University Percussion Ensemble has become one of the most sought after and active ensembles in the music department. The group has hosted and collaborated with several internationally recognized artists at events throughout the year. The group is also quite active within the community as part of the Music for Everyone program, and is highly active in the Percussive Arts Society.” These accomplishments have given the ensemble a very positive reputation, with a number of organizations reaching out for their talents.
Along with other ensembles on campus, the percussionists at Millersville University are trained extensively to exert their professionalism. Practice is absolutely vital to members in order to maintain their respected and admired image. Under the direction of James Armstrong, it is certain that no member would ever fall under the category of average. “After coming to Millersville University, my skills have greatly improved mostly because of Dr. Armstrong’s strict guidelines. I considered myself a decent percussionist, but I can now call myself a professional,” stated member Jason Goshert.
In the beginning, the MU Percussion Ensemble was created to allow percussionists on campus to join a group that would highlight their talents, as well as further them through social and individual practices. Today, the ensemble keeps its roots while expanding exponentially. The music program here at Millersville University has been vastly improved throughout the years, with the percussion ensemble playing an important role in that, performing in several music program concerts every year, not to exclude their individual shows. As one of the most important groups in the music program, the MU Percussion Ensemble shows no sign of slowing down, and continues to grow with more and more members every semester.