Instructor of Music Steve Riley directs freshman Greg Henning and other members of the Baker University percussion ensemble Thursday morning during class. The percussion ensemble is made up of seven members, including seniors Brittany Hines and Scott Ireland, who will conduct the ensemble during its final performance of the year.
Artwork by Callie Paquette.
Two Baker University seniors are the focus of the percussion ensemble as the group prepares for its end of semester performance.
Brittany Hines and Scott Ireland are the two seniors in the seven-member percussion ensemble, a musical group consisting solely of instruments in the percussion family such as the timpani, snare drums and mallet instruments, such as the xylophone.
“Being a senior in percussion ensemble is a very unique experience,” Ireland said. “(Instructor of Music) Steve Riley treats me and Brittany Hines like we are graduate students. We are both rehearsing pieces with the group and will get to conduct the pieces on our spring concert.”
The percussion ensemble performs one concert toward the end of each semester, but also participates in other performances.
One of the biggest performances was a two-day tour the group took last semester, when it played at seven high schools.
“One of the ideas I try to do with these tours is I try to go back and play at some of the high schools where the seniors went to high school, so it’s sort of like a homecoming for them,” Riley said.
Hines, a graduate of Buhler High School in Hutchinson, had the opportunity to perform a solo in front of a familiar crowd.
“I was really nervous, but it was a really good experience to be back there after being out of high school for five years,” Hines said.
Ireland performed a piece he wrote at his former high school in De Soto.
“I was featured as a marimba soloist on my own composition and the high school students really enjoyed it,” Ireland said. “A lot of them came up to me afterward and said they were very impressed and wanted to write their own pieces.”
As the end of the semester draws near, Riley has given Hines and Ireland an opportunity to conduct the ensemble themselves.
“I have little by little been bringing them more into basically doing student conducting with the group,” Riley said. “This semester, what I’ve done is I basically gave them the score and I said, ‘you assign the parts, you do all the rehearsals,’ and it’s been a great experience for them because they’ve done everything from the ground up.”
This semester’s concert will feature pieces titled “Three Asiatic Dances,” “Hand Jam,” a duet written by Riley for the seniors titled “Faded Snapshot” and a piece written by Hines titled “The DeLorean.”
“‘The DeLorean’ is a piece that I wrote for our percussion ensemble because I really like ‘Back to the Future.’ It’s my favorite movie,” Hines said.
Despite the focus on the seniors, Riley continues to look to the future in an effort to recruit members to join the percussion ensemble.
“Some of the venues I use for trying to contact students are private teaching. (It’s) a good way to get kids interested in Baker,” Riley said. “I try to make connections when I judge at festivals, if I find students that I think are particularly promising. We also have the Baker honor band that we do every February, and I audition percussionists for that band, so that’s a great opportunity.”