what are emerging percussionists supposed to do? / by Charles Martin

Since our repertoire festival, I've been thinking about what the role of a percussionist is after they've left university. I remember something that Eugene Ughetti (Speak Percussion) said when describing his own move from the academic to professional world:

"there's only so many Reich retrospectives you can do"

That comment brought some clarity for me between the role of music schools and of musicians. Music schools are often called "Conservatories" for good reason, they conserve the music of the recent and distant past and use it as a tool to educate musicians of the future. One unfortunate thing is that lots of talented young percussionists are tricked into thinking that the music school life of playing mainly classic works with a very few "new music" projects on the side should be the same as what they do afterwards!

I think that this is totally wrong.

Once you leave music school, new music is everything. Even when playing classic repertoire, it needs to be treated as "new music" so that you can leave an original mark on it.

No one needs to hear a wannabe Nexus, So, Amadinda, Kroumata, Synergy, etc, playing the same repertoire these groups have been playing for years, the only chance for emerging independent percussionists to be sustainable as artists is for them to create their own music, work with emerging composers, or to have super creative reimaginings of existing repertoire.