Sō Percussion - Program Description
Studying at Bard with Sō Percussion
Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, Jason Treuting
Dan Druckman - Associate Principal Percussionist of the New York Philharmonic, chair of the Juilliard percussion program
Greg Zuber - Principal Percussionist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, artist-faculty of the Verbier Music Festival
Jonathan Haas - Principal Percussionist of the American Symphony Orchestra, artist-faculty at the Aspen Music Festival
Garry Kvistad - member of Nexus Percussion, Steve Reich and Musicians
Jan Williams - emeritus professor of percussion at SUNY Buffalo
Tzong-Ching Ju - artistic director of Ju Percussion Group of Taiwan
The members of Sō Percussion are thrilled to lead the undergraduate percussion program at the Bard College Conservatory of Music. Our course of study places emphasis on chamber music, in both all-percussion and mixed ensembles, as a tool for creating thoughtful, well-rounded musicians.
Students study with the members of Sō Percussion, with an exciting roster of additional teachers drawn from the professional music world, and, in a masterclass setting, with Program Advisors Jan Williams and Garry Kvistad. In addition, students explore music outside of the western tradition—most notably Gamelan—and have opportunities to work closely with the John Cage Trust, located on the Bard campus.
All of this takes place within the framework of a 5-year double degree program at one of the finest liberal arts institutions in the world. The 21st century musician requires both strong musical skills as well as the skills and intellectual perspective that are developed in a broad liberal arts curriculum. Percussion students, like all conservatory students, receive degrees both in music and in another chosen academic discipline.
Details of the Program:
- Private Instruction
All percussion students study privately with the members of Sō Percussion and the teaching roster. In the first 2 years, students spend one semester with each of the members of Sō Percussion on fundamental skills. In addition to lessons with their primary teacher, students study 1-3 times each semester with a teacher from our excellent roster, covering topics to be determined by their primary teacher and the roster teacher. During the last 3 years, students and faculty collaborate on a course of study geared toward the student’s interests.
- Percussion Ensemble
All percussion majors study and perform chamber music together as part of Bard’s resident student percussion ensemble.
- Orchestral Experience
All percussion students perform in the Bard Conservatory Orchestra, which meets twice a week and performs both on and off campus throughout the year.
- Solo Performance Requirements
Students perform in public frequently, programming full recitals in at least 2 out of their last 3 years.
- Academic Music Requirements
The core music curriculum includes four semesters of music theory and two semesters of music history.
In addition to their music degree all students choose another academic discipline and at the end of their five year course of study receive both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees.
For students who have already graduated from conservatory with a bachelor of music degree the percussion program also offers a Percussion Teaching Fellow position. The Teaching Fellow receives a stipend and living expenses while studying with members of Sō Percussion and helping organize the musical activities of students in the undergraduate percussion program. For more information please click here.
About Sō Percussion:
Since 1999, Sō Percussion has been creating music that explores all the extremes of emotion and musical possibility. It has not been an easy music to define. Called an “experimental powerhouse” by the Village Voice, “astonishing and entrancing” by Billboard Magazine, and “brilliant” by the New York Times, the Brooklyn based quartet’s innovative work with today’s most exciting composers and their own original music has quickly helped them forge a unique and diverse career.
Although the drum is one of humanity’s most ancient instruments, Europe and America have only recently begun to explore its full potential, aided by explosions of influence and experimentation from around the world. In the 20th Century, musical innovators like Edgard Varese, John Cage, Steve Reich, and Iannis Xenakis brought these instruments out from behind the traditional orchestra and gave them new voice.
It was excitement about these composers and the sheer fun of playing together that inspired the members of Sō to begin performing together while students at the Yale School of Music: Cage’s Third Construction
wove elaborate rhythmic counterpoint using ordinary objects, while Reich’s Drumming
harnessed African inspiration to ecstatic effect.
A blind call to David Lang, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and co-founder of New York’s Bang on a Can Festival, yielded their first big commissioned piece, The So-Called Laws of Nature
, which appeared with Evan Ziporyn’s gamelan-inspired Melody Competition
on their first album Sō Percussion
. In the following years, the thrill of working with amazing composers would yield new pieces by Paul Lansky, Dan Trueman, Steve Reich, Steve Mackey, Fred Frith, and many others.
For their next disc they tackled Drumming
, one of the first and few percussion pieces of symphonic scope (well over an hour long). A landmark American work, Drumming
fuses African aesthetics, western philosophical concepts, and technologically inspired processes in a minimalist masterpiece. In 2010, Sō presented the U.S. premiere of Reich’s new Mallet Quartet
, written for the group and several other renowned percussion ensembles.
Sō’s third album Amid the Noise
heralded a new direction: original music, written by member Jason Treuting. Eager to expand their palette, the members experimented with glockenspiel, toy piano, vibraphones, bowed marimba, melodica, tuned and prepared pipes, metals, duct tape, a wayward ethernet port, and all kinds of sound programming. The resulting idiosyncratic tone explorations were synchronized to Jenise Treuting’s haunting films of street scenes in Brooklyn and Kyoto. This ongoing work has resulted in exciting new projects such as the site-specific Music For Trains
in southern Vermont and Imaginary City
, a sonic meditation on urban soundscapes commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2009 Next Wave Festival in consortium with 5 other venues.
For the past several years, Sō has been joining the electronic duo Matmos for shows around the country and in Europe, exploring the sonic and theatrical possibilities of beer cans, hair clippers, ceramic bowls, and dry ice. This collaboration culminated in Treasure State
, released on Cantaloupe Music in 2010.
Sō Percussion is becoming increasingly involved in mentoring young artists. Starting in the fall of 2011, its members join the Bard Conservatory as Co-Directors of the new percussion department. The summer of 2009 saw the creation of the annual Sō Percussion Summer Institute on the campus of Princeton University. The Institute is an intensive two-week chamber music seminar for college-age percussionists. For their latest festival, the four members of Sō served as faculty in rehearsal, performance, and discussion of contemporary music to 26 students from around the world.
Sō Percussion has performed this unusual and exciting music all over the United States, with concerts at the Lincoln Center Festival, Carnegie Hall, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, Stanford Lively Arts, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and many others. In addition, recent tours to Russia, Australia, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the Ukraine have brought them international acclaim. They won 2nd prize overall and the Concerto Prize at the 2005 Luxembourg International Percussion Quartet Competition.
With an audience comprised of "both kinds of blue hair... elderly matron here, arty punk there" (as the Boston Globe described it), Sō Percussion makes a rare and wonderful breed of music that both compels instantly and offers rewards for engaged listening. Edgy (at least in the sense that little other music sounds like this) and ancient (in that people have been hitting objects for eons), perhaps it doesn’t need to be defined after all.
Please click here for an interview with Adam Sliwinski and Symphony NOW about the Bard Conservatory percussion program and Sō Percussion.