Science Hill Percussion Ensemble drums up worldwide honor

Brad Hicks • Nov 15, 2013 at 11:44 AM

The Science Hill High School Percussion Ensemble is the recipient of one of the highest honors in the world of percussion music, and months of practice and rehearsal will culminate today in a performance that will be seen by percussion peers from around the world.

The ensemble is one of only a pair of high school percussion ensembles in the world to be selected to take the stage for a showcase concert at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention held in Indianapolis. Each year, two high school and two collegiate ensembles are chosen to perform at the convention.

“This is arguably the highest honor achievable for high school percussion ensembles in our country,” Dan McGuire, director of percussion/assistant Science Hill Band director, wrote in a June email to Johnson City School System administrators following the group’s selection to perform at the PASIC. “Percussionists from around the globe, representing regions such as Ghana, Japan, Southeast Asia, Europe, South America and the United States, will be in attendance at PASIC in 2013.”

Twenty-three students with the Science Hill Percussion Ensemble, which is made up of students in grades 9 through 12, left for Indiana late Wednesday evening. The group received the invitation to perform at the convention after previously submitting a performance tape to a PASIC judging committee. This will mark the ensemble’s first concert at the convention.

“Even just to send a tape in, you have to have a really good product,” SHHS Band Director Dr. Carson Vermillion said Thursday.

The Science Hill Percussion Ensemble will perform today from 9-9:50 a.m. As one of the showcase concerts at the PASIC, the performance will likely be seen by several thousands in attendance at the convention, Vermillion said.

“It’s one of the, possibly the, highest honor that can be bestowed on a percussion ensemble, whether it be high school or the collegiate level,” Vermillion said. “The clinic is the Super Bowl of all things percussion and to be selected as a showcase performance, as they’re one of two high school ensembles that actually perform an entire program in their performance venue, is an incredible honor.”

Science Hill students will each play multiple percussion instruments and will perform several pieces during their 50-minute slot, and will be joined by two guest soloists on some of the pieces — Dr. Rande Sanderbeck, professor of percussion at East Tennessee State University, and Dr. Eric Willie, assistant professor of percussion at Tennessee Tech University.

Vermillion said students began practicing and rehearsing for the PASIC this past summer. After learning of its selection, the group also began fundraising efforts, received support from the Science Hill High School Band Boosters and managed to drum up some monetary support from members of the community. Vermillion said the group raised around $10,000 for its trip to Indianapolis.

The Science Hill Percussion Ensemble’s selection to perform at the PASIC should be a source of local pride, Vermillion said.

“It speaks well for our music program, it speaks well for our high school, our school system and our state, as well,” Vermillion said.

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