Concert Audition Etudes Updates

It’s almost that time again: time to hold auditions to sort percussionists into their concert ensemble for next year!

For the last several years I’ve been using Concert Percussion etudes I’ve composed as the audition material (I’ve posted about that before here). This year I’ve given them and overhaul to make them an even better assessment tool.

Here’s what they look like after the update:

First, there are four separate etudes: Snare, Mallets, Timpani, and Auxiliary Percussion.

The following skillsets are evaluated by each etude:

Snare: repeating and alternating full strokes, dynamic contrast, repeating and alternating accent-tap differentiation, buzz rolls, flams, flam taps, flam accents, paradiddles, sixteenth timing patterns, and triplet interpretation.

Mallet: double stops, full stroke technique, arpeggios, major scales, chromatic scales, rolls, double stop rolls, sixteenth timing patterns, triplet interpretation, dynamic contrast, and has an optional four-mallet section. The mallet etude may be played on standard size marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, and (most) glockenspiels.

Timpani: full stroke technique, sixteenth timing, dynamic contrast, roll technique, dampening, accent tap differentiation, movement around the drums, forte-piano crescendo rolls, and tuning. The timpani etude does require four standard size timpani (but I have plans to create a version that requires only two drums).

Percussion: This etude is written so that one player can play all of the following instruments in one pass. It also gives the the chance to practice – and you the chance to evaluate – how they change from one instrument to another in performance.

The following instruments are used:

  • Hand Cymbals: crashes, dampening
  • Suspended Cymbal: rolls
  • Tambourine: general playing and rolls
  • Triangle: general playing, muted playing, rolls, dampening
  • Bass Drum: general playing and dampening

Some of the BEST features of the etudes include:

  • They are SHORT. Just 45 seconds per etude to evaluate ALL of the techniques listed above. Realistically, you can complete each student’s audition in just 5 minutes.
  • All the etudes fit together to create a percussion ENSEMBLE etude. Meaning you can conceivably rehearse them in class with kids playing snare, mallets, timpani, and auxiliary percussion AT THE SAME TIME! Then after a rep or two have the kids swap which part they are playing. Repeat as necessary.
  • They are FREE! Download them and use them in your program. Enjoy!

BYHERNDON – CONCERT AUDITION ETUDE NO .1

 

 

2019 Recap

Great and Small, my solo keyboard work with optional audio accompaniment, was named an Editor’s Choice by Music Distributor J.W. Pepper.

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Several schools included my works on their programs for the Lassiter Percussion Symposium: Alpharetta High School performed Begin Transmission and Cambridge High School and Jackson High School both programmed Song Without Words.

I had the opportunity and pleasure to arrange percussion and/or electronics for: West Forsyth High School, Wilmington High School, Greater Atlanta Christian Academy, and East Jackson High School.

Two of my new percussion ensembles were published through Tapspace: Sic Semper DraconisWater Music.

MacCallum High School included my arrangement of Gustav Holst’s Song Without Words on their Midwest program marking the third time in four years that I’ve had the honor of having my music performed there.

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‘Great and Small’ in Percussive Notes

GREATANDSMALLGreat and Small is a programmatic work comprised of two delightful movements for solo keyboard percussion with optional audio accompaniment. These vignettes depict the powerful beasts Leviathan and Behemoth when they were still young, whimsical, and childlike. Deemed ‘’medium-easy” by the publisher, it is appropriate for older middle school or younger high school students and works well as their first solo piece.

As an educator, I found several benefits to studying this work with students. The length is ideal for younger percussionists, as each movement in the set is approximately two minutes. Neither movement requires four-mallet technique or similar advanced concepts, and the programmatic nature encourages conversation about character interpretation and expression. The entire piece is written using sixteenth notes as the smallest subdivision, exploring syncopated rhythms and interplay between the hands. This is especially noticeable in the second movement, “Budding Behemoth,” with many of these figures beginning on the left hand with a large leap. The first movement, “Little Leviathan,” includes phrase markings in the right hand to highlight the melody, something difficult to find in compositions for this ability level. Perhaps my favorite musical concept is the detailed use of dynamic contrast. Developing this at a young age is vital, and I am pleased to see an appropriate amount throughout both movements.
From a logistical point of view, the flexibility of Great and Small is wonderful for many public school situations. Herndon has composed the work so that any movement can be performed on a vibraphone, xylophone, or 4-octave marimba. While he recommends vibraphone for the first movement and marimba for the second movement, the option encourages students to take their own liberties bands on the equipment they have available. Furthermore, even through the audio accompaniment greatly enhances the piece, it is not necessary for performance. This allows for students to still gain from the work even if they are unable to meet the technological requirements, Very well priced, this composition is worth adding to your repertoire for younger students.

–Danielle Moreau
Percussive Notes
Vol. 57, No. 2, May 2019

‘Guac Is Extra’ in Percussive Notes

Guac Is Extra“Guac is Extra” serves as a fun way to introduce students to the instruments and style of salsa music. John Herndon does a fantastic job of making the style accessible to younger players, as each uses two drums and an accessory instrument. The performance notes indicate the drums to be played with swizzle sticks; however, more advanced players are encouraged to use their hands for the congas and bongos.

The piece begins with a brief introduction and then layers the different instrument entrances as the groove is built. Once all the players have entered, the bongo, conga, and timbale players take solos. Although solos are written out for each player, there is room for players to embellish the solos or even create their own. Although not indicated in the score, it would not be difficult to extend the solos for the players, if needed. The middle section is made up of straight eighth notes with the players accenting certain notes to create a fun melody around the ensemble. The piece ends with a return to the original grooveand a brief coda. 

This piece will help students to not only learn the style, but also work on ensemble sensitivity, listening, and groove. The piece will make an excellent addition to the repertoire for younger groups. With all the guac and salsa they will be playing, the only thing missing would be a side of chips!

—Josh Armstrong
Percussive Notes
Vol. 53, No. 1, March 2019

Rehearsal Schedule

Having a lot of staff members can be great! But, only if you communicate effectively…

For every staff member you add you add a little Communication Overhead. Meaning that for every staff member you add you have to pay a little time in communication in order to receive quality work from them. If it is just you, zero time communicating. If you add a staff member, you should be communicating with them about plans for the rehearsal and goals for the group. If you add two, that’s even MORE time and so on…

For this reason Josh Kaufman in The Personal MBA suggests that you limit staff to between three and eight people. Any more than that and you spend a considerable amount of time communicating and it begins to detract from the effectiveness of the team. People get confused and work against one another, or they simply don’t know what to do so they don’t contribute.

For indoor drumline and marching band I follow his advice and limit the staff to two people in the fall and eight (the max) for indoor.

In addition, almost every rehearsal since spring 2014 I’ve posted a schedule like this in an area that can be seen by students and staff.

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I usually spend no more than 10-15 minutes creating and posting it and it communicates to EVERYONE what the plan for the day is. I try to get it up an hour in advance so that staff members who find themselves in charge of running part of rehearsal can plan. I also encourage staff autonomy by not telling them EXACTLY what to do all the time. Notice the Pit has a lot of music time scheduled, but I don’t say exactly what to spend it on. I do this because I trust my staff and I want them to know that. No one feels trusted and valued if you micromanage them. Conversely, if they ask me what I’d like them to work on, I always have an answered prepared to supplement the plan in the schedule.

I first saw one of these posted by Rhythm X and thought, “They know what they’re doing. I’ll give it a shot.”

I haven’t been disappointed! Try it out with your group and let me know what you think.

 

 

2018 Recap

I’m very grateful for another active year around byHerndon!

Here’s some of what went on:

  • The North Gwinnett Middle School Percussion Ensemble performed Begin Transmission at the Georgia Music Educators Association In-Service Conference.

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  • I had two new pieces published through Tapspace:
    • Song Without Words for percussion ensemble
    • Great and Small for solo keyboard percussion with audio accompaniment
    • Another piece was also accepted for publication so stay tuned for more info on that later…

Happy New Year!