East Carolina University’s School of Music (SoM) will host its final percussion ensemble concert of the semester from 7:30-9 p.m. on April 14 at the Fletcher Music Center, room B110.
ECU professor and percussion director Jonathan Wacker said this will be his last concert at ECU as he will be retiring at the end of the spring semester. Wacker said he has been with ECU for 23 years.
“The Percussion Ensemble is an interesting group, normally if you look at your concert band, orchestra or whatever, you’ll have all kinds of instruments, brass, woodwinds, strings, etc,” Wacker said. “The Percussion Ensemble is an ensemble where all the instruments are percussion instruments.”
Wacker said that for the past few years he has taught classes in music appreciation and jazz history, but his primary focus has been percussion. He said his replacement has yet to be released, but is expected to be announced around or after the final weeks of review.
For the April 14 performance, Wacker said there were many different plays planned. The Percussion Ensemble will be accompanied by a guest artist Arthur Lipnerprofessional percussionist, and The Pirate Steele, an ECU steel pan ensemble.
“We have a bunch of really crazy, exciting pieces,” Wacker said. “I always like to program pieces in a wide range of styles.”
Wacker said the ensemble will perform “Scherzo” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which adds a classical element. There will also be a salsa piece called “Ran Kan Kan” by Tito Puente and a xylophone piece by a group of freshmen.
Wacker said Lipner was one of the first artists he had ever invited to ECU, so he felt it was only fitting to have him here for his final gig. Wacker said they had known each other for years and remained friends throughout that time. Wacker said part of Lipner’s career is visiting college campuses in order to perform and teach.
Lipner said he has performed in nearly 30 countries and appeared on nearly 50 albums. He said he specializes in vibrations, marimba and steel pans. Lipner said he toured regularly as a performer and educator, and had been a musician since he was six years old. Lipner said his dream had always been to travel the world.
“I wanted to establish myself in the jazz business as a recording artist and a touring artist,” Lipner said. “My first trip to Europe dates back to 1986 and I have been there 39 times since.”
Lipner said he was excited to return to ECU as it has been a while since he did. He also said he was happy to have the chance to be part of Wacker’s latest performance. Lipner said it would be his third time at ECU in his career.
Lipner said he thinks the ECU pounding will be at a high skill level based on Wacker’s skill set.
“I’m always looking to share music with people,” Lipner said. “When I go to college or high school because my stature in the field is always exciting for them and I want to share what I know and help them in their game.”
Freshman music education major Jamie Pierce said she’s been a percussionist since she was in sixth grade and will be performing in the concert. Pierce said she played other instruments outside of the percussion family, but not by choice. She said her major requires her to know how to play other instruments so she can teach them.
Pierce said she was sad to see Wacker go because he was so helpful in raising her in such a short time. She said she hopes the percussion side of her major doesn’t lose the growth opportunities it had as a new teacher is hired.
“I wouldn’t be half as good as a musician as I am today if I hadn’t started with him (Wacker) from the beginning,” Pierce said. “He is a very good teacher and an incredible percussionist.”
She said the biggest piece of the April 14 performance will be Beethoven’s piece. Pierce said this piece was difficult for her, especially because there were a lot of times when she had to read sheet music and not look at her instrument.
Pierce said the environment in the SoM as a percussionist was very open and welcoming for her. She said her experience was also difficult, but it was a good experience overall. She said it was a healthy and helpful environment.