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Riverton Drums Up New Percussion Ensemble

Apr 08, 2016 09:28AM ● Published by Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals.com

South Valley - Riverton High School’s newest competing ensemble gives percussion students the opportunity to perform year-round. 

The school’s original indoor percussion group was disbanded in 2006, but it’s been the goal of Max Meyer to bring it back since he started teaching at the school three years ago. 

“When the students in class heard that was my plan, they were ecstatic, and they started to ask me about when I was going to move forward with it,” Meyer said. “I told them we had to wait until we had more students in the program.”

Band teachers and students started recruiting percussionists, Rashae Moody, a percussion student, said. The percussion program tripled from 2013 to 2015, going from 15 to 45 students, justifying the creation of an indoor percussion ensemble, Meyer said.  

In all, 36 students joined in the indoor percussion ensemble. Most of them came from the percussion program with a few finding out about the ensemble through concert band. 

Indoor percussion is like a condensed marching band. It consists of the percussion sections of the band, the pit and battery, but omits brass instruments, wind instruments and color guard from its scope. The battery — the musicians who play the drums — stand, march and create formations in back of the musicians who make up the pit. 

“There’s actually quite a bit of theater and pageantry in indoor,” Meyer said. “There’s body movements, theatrics and plots to your shows.” 

For their inaugural year, Meyer said the theme of Riverton Indoor Percussion’s show is conveying students’ potential life paths through career and education choices. The musicians act out this theme in their show “Imagine.” 

Moody said one of her favorite parts about indoor percussion is learning to let herself dance to the music they create. 

“Movement and music are both part of the performance aspect, and facial expressions, too,” she said. “The song becomes a part of you.” 

Riverton Indoor Percussion scored second place in its first competition on Feb. 13 at Pleasant Grove High School, losing to Davis High School by four points. They’ll compete in five more competitions this season, and have a chance to make it to the state finals. 

The local competitions are supported under the Intermountain Percussion Association and the Utah High School Activities Association. The Winter Guard International Sport of the Arts, a youth nonprofit organization, creates regional and national opportunities for indoor percussion groups to compete. 

Meyer said his goal is to take his indoor percussion ensemble to the regional competition next year, and the world championship competition in the 2017–18 school year. He said his group will likely travel to Colorado and California within the next two years. 

In order to get to the championships, the group would have to participate in at least one national event. More than 12,000 participated at the Sport of the Arts World Championships in April 2015, according to Riverton Indoor Percussion’s webpage. 

Meyer said he expects his students to put in a lot of practice to be ready for competitions. Riverton Indoor Percussion rehearses for three hours on Mondays and four hours on Wednesdays.

Michael Stump, 19, said he practices a half hour each day on his own in addition to the group practice. Stump, who’s played the bass drum for six years, said he tries to help the other players as much as he can. 

Instructors from outside the high school come to the practices to help teach the percussionists in smaller groups based on skill level. Rachel Jorgensen said that’s been really helpful for her in her first year of playing the drums. 

“It can be kind of stressful, and interesting and new, but there’s lots of people that can help if you have questions,” Jorgensen said. “When I saw the final result on video of our competition, it was all worth it. It was really awesome.”  

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