UCSB Percussion Ensemble with special guests Wade Culbreath, James Beauton, and Ken McGrath after their Winter 2016 concert. Jon Nathan, Director

UC Santa Barbara Percussion Ensemble with special guests Wade Culbreath, James Beauton, and Ken McGrath after their Winter 2016 concert (Jon Nathan, Director).


Musicianship • Chamber Music • Excellence • Development • Dedication • Cooperation

Dedicated to developing excellence in performing advanced chamber music for percussion and increasing musicianship and cooperation in music-making.

The UCSB Percussion Ensemble invites interested musicians to participate in this ensemble dedicated to discovering, exploring, developing, and performing chamber music for percussion. Ensemble members will learn new techniques, instruments, and repertoire in order to expand their knowledge base of percussion ensemble repertoire and to be part of a larger community of music-making at UCSB. To be clear, the ensemble performs music for professional-level “concert” percussion ensemble, and not drum corps-styled playing of any kind, unless it is music that is drum corps style influenced (see Nick Werth’s Boom Bap for one such piece). If you are unclear about this, please Google music by So Percussion, Third Coast Percussion, Nexus, The Yale Percussion Group, Sandbox Percussion, and others. Composers of such music include Steve Reich, John Cage, William Bret Dietz, Ney Rosauro, and many others. Repertoire suggestions are encouraged and taken seriously, so do not hesitate to bring your imaginative choices.

Those students interested in Percussion Ensemble, lessons, and other percussion-related activities should attend an informational meeting on Tuesday, October 3, 2023, at 2 PM in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall, but for best results, you should contact instructor Jon Nathan before classes begin at jazzjon@ucsb.edu. I am happy to talk to you by Zoom or phone to answer your questions and address any concerns you may have, including class conflicts for meeting times, your current level of playing, and any other topic.

Necessary audition and ensembles performance skill sets include:

  • ability to read rhythms and music
  • ability to play one or more percussion instruments including snare drum, timpani, mallets, drumset, and other accessory instruments at varying levels of ability
  • sight-reading ability is not necessary, but is very helpful
  • ability to play in a chamber music situation (no conductor) or the interest to do so
  • the interest in dedicating yourself to personal improvement and ensemble excellence

Ensemble members will have access to Percussion Studios and instruments for the purpose of practice and are invited to participate in other opportunities for percussion performance at UCSB, including Wind Ensemble, Orchestra, Ensemble for Contemporary Music, Gamelan, and the Middle East Ensemble. Please be prepared to purchase some sticks and mallets as necessary, as the Department has limited inventory and funding for such, especially if you plan to work with other UCSB ensembles, such as Wind Ensemble. Ensemble members may also be eligible for one-to-one percussion lessons for credit, and if interested, please make me aware of your interest as soon as possible.

Some possible repertoire choices for the year include the following (all of which are viewable on YouTube):

  • Dark Full Ride, by Julia Wolfe (four drumsets)
  • Dance of Hands, by Jennifer Bellor (mallet quartet, mostly)
  • This we Have Now, by Jennifer Bellor (percussion quartet, mixed mallets and percussion)
  • Things May be Changing (but probably not), by David Skidmore (mallet quartet)
  • ZONES, by Jennifer Higdon (percussion quintet with recording)
  • Boombap, by Nick Werth (6 percussionists on shared setups)
  • Fanfare for a New Audience, by David Skidmore (4 percussion)
  • Cumba Quin, by Carlos Rafael (originally for guitar quartet)
  • Note to Self, by Natalie Joachim (for voice, electronics, and percussion quartet)

As you can see, we are interested in performing unusual and contemporary chamber music repertoire, developing repertoire by UCSB student and faculty composers, repertoire by women and otherwise underrepresented composers, developing inclusivity of drumset players, and exploring societal themes in music-making, and including the use of popular and rock music idioms.