Percussion Ensemble Garners Top Honors

MSU Percussion students chosen to peform at prominent convention.

2017 MSU Percussion Ensemble. Members include undergraduate students majoring in music performance, education and composition, and graduate students in the master’s, performance diploma and doctoral program.
Final moments of the World Premier of "Ferrum" by Dr. David Biedenbender. Percussion students from left to right: Sebastian Buhts, Kramer Milan, Daniel Gerhardt and Steven Murtonen.
Alice Pan paints, sings and performs as percussion soloist in "Round for Three Muses" written specifically with her by Andrea Clearfield.
The PASIC audience hears a new instrument for the first time as part of "The Building of Asgard" by percussionist, composer and instrument craftsman Alex Smith. Students performing on stage; Andrew Zakerski, Cam Halls and Darrien Spicak.


Yun Ju “Alice” Pan promised herself that one day she would play percussion at the ultimate conference for percussionists. In November 2017, Pan realized that goal when she joined fellow members of the Michigan State University Percussion Ensemble in the winner’s circle at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention.

“This experience was a dream come true,” says the percussion performance doctoral candidate in the MSU College of Music. “I’m very proud to represent MSU, and it shows that MSU has not only great percussionists, but also very creative ideas and spirit.”

Yun Ju Pan was among the 17-member student ensemble that traveled to the world’s largest percussion event held in Indianapolis, Indiana. The group was one of three winners of a prestigious annual competition held by PASIC and shared accolades with Northwestern University and Eastman School of Music.

The trip represents the second time the ensemble has garnered top honors at the prominent event attended by up to 6,000 students, faculty, artists and percussionists from around the world. Led by director Gwen Dease with additional direction by Jon Weber, the ensemble played five pieces—all of which were composed or commissioned by MSU students and faculty.

“My goal was to showcase MSU talent in different ways,” says Dease, professor of percussion and area chair of percussion. “This event is extremely high profile, so being among the winning ensembles gives us a great platform to perform and show the percussion community what we’re up to here at MSU.”

Weber, instructor of percussion, agrees that performing at PASIC put students in front of leading percussionists, and exposed them to a multitude of ideas that enriches their educational and performance experience.

“Students were able to see master classes from respected respected percussion ensembles, orchestral musicians, drumset artists and more from all over the world,” he says. “They were able to get information about so many details that really makes a music performance special.”

The ensemble’s five performance selections included the world premiere of “Ferrum,” by David Biedenbender, MSU assistant professor of composition; “Round for Three Muses,” by Andrea Clearfield and commissioned by Alice Pan; “The Building of Asgard” by College of Music doctoral candidate Alex Smith, “Luminescent Experiments,” by College of Music alumnus Josh Trentadue; and “Pillar IV,” by Andy Akiho and commissioned by Gwen Dease and the Time Travelers percussion quartet.

“Going to PASIC is a great experience for students,” says Dease. “It gives students a chance to work on music at a high level, to experience a very high pressure situation, and to see what it means to prepare and succeed. We were very proud of them and excited to be selected to perform for the second time.”

Support to help fund the MSU Percussion Ensemble's travel to the 2017 Percussive Arts Society International Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, was generously provided by Drs. Lou A. and Roy J. Simon. 

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