Percussion Ensemble
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Percussion Ensemble

Hartt's Percussion Ensemble first performed in 1947 and began rehearsing and presenting concerts on a regular basis in 1950, distinguishing it as one of the first ensembles of its type in the United States. Since its inception over 50 years ago the ensemble has had two directors: Alexander Lepak and Benjamin Toth.

With an emphasis on chamber music, the Hartt Percussion Ensemble's repertoire includes works for both small and large ensembles. Programming includes percussion ensemble "classics" (by Varese, Cage, Harrison, Reich, etc.), as well as contemporary literature and premiere performances. Concerts have also featured the folkloric music of various cultures, including that of Mexico, Africa, Cuba, and the Middle East, as well as American ragtime. In addition, the Hartt Graduate Percussion Trio and the Hartt Steelband serve as extensions of the Hartt Percussion Ensemble. Ensemble members pursue a wide variety of majors at The Hartt School, including percussion performance, music education, music management, acoustics, music production and technology, and composition.

Highlights from the ensemble's concert schedule include: Percussive Arts Society (PAS) International Conventions in Columbus (1999), and Phoenix (1995); the National Association of Composers - USA concert series (New York); the Extension Works concert series (Boston); the Connecticut Music Educator's Annual Conference; PAS state conventions in Maine and Connecticut; and workshops and concerts at Bennington College (Vermont); Michigan State University; West Chester State University (Pennsylvania); and Grand Valley State University (Michigan). The ensemble has also presented over 125 children's programs and steelband concerts throughout southern New England. The Hartt Graduate Percussion Trio has recorded for the Innova, Yesa, and Hartt labels.

Guest performers appearing with the ensemble have included frame drummer Glen Velez; jazz mallet player Dave Samuels; marimbist Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic; African drummer Joseph Galeota; Latin percussionists John Amira and Johnny Almendra; composer, timpanist, and PAS Hall of Fame member Alexander Lepak; and percussionist/composer (and John Cage biographer) David Revill.

Benjamin Toth, chair of the Percussion Department at The Hartt School, brings 25 years of professional chamber music performing experience to the ensemble. He has performed in Brazil, Hong Kong, Japan, Trinidad, and throughout Europe and the United States. He has recorded for the Albany, Arabesque, Bis, Centaur, GIA, Hartt, Innova, TNC and Yesa labels, having appeared on 15 recordings.