Percussion Students Aiming High, One Beat At A Time
Oct. 16, 2015
By Carole Maynard, Department of Music
FLORENCE, Ala. - When Dr. Tracy Wiggins started his tenure as assistant director of bands and percussion professor at the University of North Alabama in fall 2014, he had one goal in mind: to continue to move UNA Percussion forward from the regional stage to a national one.
That goal is now a reality as the UNA Percussion Group prepares to perform at the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) national conference in Nashville on October 25.
And Dr. Wiggins is ready to embrace this opportunity, for his students and for UNA.
"This convention will bring music educators from all over the country together and they will see what UNA has to offer," he said. "Performances at conventions like this help get the name of UNA and our music program out to an even wider audience."
He also hopes exposure at national events like the NAfME conference will showcase the scope of talent UNA Percussion students possess.
"We have a program that features one of the best marching percussion sections in the country and it's coupled with a concert group that is performing on the national stage now," Wiggins said. "There are very few programs in the country that can boast that combination. Performances like the NAfME opportunity are an excellent chance to show the balance of our percussion program. Many people see the students perform regularly as part of the 'Pride of Dixie' marching band, but these students are also great performers on the concert stage."
Dr. Wiggins tries to keep that balance throughout the year with marching and concert opportunities for students. Because percussion is required in every performing ensemble at the university, including all bands, orchestra, opera productions and some choir performances, the UNA Percussion students keep busy honing their craft.
Those students have a chance to mentor, learn and perform during the Fall Day of Percussion on October 22. This annual event, a joint venture between UNA Bands and the Muscle Shoals High School band, brings more than 300 percussionists together to spend the day in the Muscle Shoals High School stadium, learning and playing together. They have the opportunity to learn from world-class clinicians Bret Kuhn and Brad Palmer, and the event culminates with a performance by the entire "Pride of Dixie" marching band.
Returning this fall is the popular "Dynamic Duos" concert. The concert is November 10 in the Music Building Recital Hall and is free of charge. The spring brings the concert "Percussion Ensemble: Old and New" on March 3 in Norton Auditorium. The concert showcases the "old" with major historical works and brings in the "new" with an original work by UNA Music faculty member Sam Merciers, as well as a premiere piece that UNA Percussion helped commission by Eastman percussion teacher Michael Burritt.
"Our concerts this year will feature everything from conch shells, kalimbas and sirens to tuned gongs and cowbells, lots of drums, mallet instruments and more," said Wiggins. "Every time we perform, we want every member of the audience to have experienced something new and exciting."