Masterclass with Mike Perdue

We hosted Mike Perdue for an excellent masterclass on improvisation this week with the University of Maryland Percussion Studio. Mike directs the Percussion Ensemble at Manhattan School of Music and is a colleague from many years back when we attended Brevard Music Center together as students. It was fun to recollect some of the times we improvised together when we were at BMC. The students played along with Mike on some found object instruments and Mike walked them through some of the techniques he employs when improvising.

UMD-College Park Named Top Entrepreneurship University

“For the sixth consecutive year, the University of Maryland (UMD) earned a top 10 ranking in The Princeton Review’s annual survey of top schools for entrepreneurship. In the 2021 rankings released today and featured in the December issue of Entrepreneur magazine, UMD placed No. 6 for undergraduate entrepreneurship education—climbing one spot from last year—and No. 3 among public universities. UMD additionally was listed at No. 23 for graduate entrepreneurship education, marking the ninth consecutive year that the university has been named a top 25 program.”

In recent years, my role at UMD has increasingly involved education and research into entrepreneurship for musicians and other creative types on campus. From 2017 to 2018, I taught a course of my own creation, The Entrepreneurial Musician, which was designed to hone School of Music students’ entrepreneurial skills to help prepare them for a diverse and ever-changing career in the field of music. In 2018, I applied for and was awarded an Elevate Fellowship, a prestigious on campus award given to faculty who are retooling an academic class at UMD. As part of my Elevate Fellowship, I elevated and retooled my Entrepreneurial Musician class to become Entrepreneurship for Arts Leaders: one of the five required classes that comprises the Arts Leadership Minor program. I also served on an interdepartmental committee within the College of Arts and Humanities to implement and advise on the creation of the Arts Leadership Minor program and am currently sitting on a similar committee at UMD to investigate the possibility of creating a comprehensive masters program in Arts Leadership.

It is humbling and rewarding to know that all of the great work in entrepreneurship going on at UMD, in various different departments, is receiving the recognition it deserves.

Album Release – At Seventy: The Percussion Music of Stuart Saunders Smith

“At Seventy: The Percussion Music of Stuart Saunders Smith,” The Authors: a marimba opera, Chen Li Music, CLM 107, 2020, Buy it HERE.

I’m featured on The Authors (2006) on Disk Five.

In 2017, I re-recorded Smith’s The Authors (a marimba opera). It can also be heard on my 2015 solo album, “Theatrical Music for Solo Percussion” on Albany Records. I’ve been living with this piece now since 2009 when I first premiered the piece as part of my dissertation project with the same name as my solo album, “Theatrical Music for Solo Percussion.” It has become one of my favorite pieces for solo percussion. At twenty-six minutes in length, the work is staggeringly beautiful, complex, and from the heart. The texts selected from the famous authors and poets are stunning and were carefully hand selected by Stuart and Jamie Dietz who commissioned the piece. Here’s some program notes to give you a better idea about the piece:


The Authors (2006)

  1. Whitman
  2. Kerouac
  3. Dickinson
  4. Salinger
  5. Bowles
  6. Miller
  7. Stein
  8. Chute
  9. Black Elk
  10. Sylvia Plath, Edna St. Vincent Millay
  11. Bly

The Authors for marimba / vocalist was commissioned by percussionist Jamie Dietz in 2006 and received its world premiere performance by Dr. Lee Hinkle on April 8, 2009.  The Authors is a marimba opera.  Made up of eleven movements, the spoken and sung texts represent excerpts from the authors’ famous novels, poems, and sonnets.  The performer is tasked with speaking, singing, whistling, and acting while playing the marimba.  Most of the movements feature the marimba being played in a traditional manner; however, in movement seven, “Stein,” the marimba’s keys are modified by placing cardboard over certain notes to produce a pitched typewriter-like sound.  In movement eight, “Chute,” the performer sits on the stage to play a homemade marimba made up of five small resonating logs.  And in movement eleven, “Bly,” a narrator (specified to be of the opposite sex of the performer) takes over the text from the performer to close the piece.  Proceeding in a quasi-cinematic fashion, each movement of The Authors provides a brief snapshot of its author dramatically, musically, and literarily.

Stuart Saunders Smith (b. 1948) is a prolific American composer whose works often combine music, text, and theater to create a unified “music-text” sense.  In his traditionally notated compositions, Smith uses irregular rhythms to imitate the irregular rhythms and pitch of human speech patterns.  In other compositions, Smith utilizes alternate notation systems created especially for each piece.  In these cases Smith’s scores often appear more like the script for a straight play than a musical score; complete with stage directions.  Dr. Smith earned a D.M.A. in composition at the University of Illinois where he studied with Edward Miller, Edward Diemente, Salvatore Martirano, Herbert Brün and Benjamin Johnston.  Dr. Smith is an emeritus professor of composition at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and his music is published by Smith Publications.

I hope that you might consider checking out this new recording. It was a very challenging experience re-recording this epic work, but it was also fun to have the opportunity to change and enhance my interpretations after having lived with the piece for a while longer.

PASIC 2020

I was honored to organize a major virtual concert entitled “New Music/Research Presents: Music for Voice & Percussion” for the Percussive Arts Society International Convention along with my colleague Bonnie Whiting. The concert streamed on Saturday November 14 from 1 pm to 2 pm EST. The roster of artists and the quality of the playing was amazing. I couldn’t be more thankful than to have been involved with so many fine musicians. Stay tuned! At PASIC 2021 Bonnie and I will organize a 5 concert series and panel discussion with the same focus topic. Super excited for next years (hopefully) in-person convention!

Diamondback Article

There was a very nice article yesterday in the Diamondback, the on-campus newspaper at UMD-College Park, about the UMD Percussion Ensemble and our work during the pandemic.

“The whole ensemble — save two students who Zoomed into the rehearsal from their homes — was physically present. The voices of different members popcorned around the room, trying to solve this little problem in timing or that little hiccup on a syllable. No one directed; Hinkle was facilitating the conversation, but not dictating it. . .This kind of collaborative problem-solving attitude is a trademark attitude of percussion players, Hinkle said.” 

photo by Taneen Momemi/The Diamondback


I had the pleasure of performing in-person recently with the 21st Century Consort for a “reunion” concert of sorts. It had been 7-months almost to the day since the last time I had an in-person rehearsal or performance with other musicians as we’ve all been quarantining and socially distancing with the COVID-19 crisis. It was so great to get back out there, in the same room with other musicians (socially distanced and masked, of course)! On the concert I was featured on Jennifer Jolley’s solo piece How to be a Deep Thinker in LA among other works at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill. The concert, entitled “S P A C E D O U T,” was performed for a small audience of eight with social distancing and masks. The concert was professionally recorded and can viewed here in its entirety. The Washington Post’s new classical music reviewer, Michael Andor Brodeur, was in attendance and wrote an article that included impressions of his experience at the 21st Century Consort concert and about the work of other classical music ensembles in the DC Metro area during the COVID crises.
Here’s a link to the concert program.

The Passion of Scrooge Film

The Passion of Scrooge from H. Paul Moon on Vimeo.

Last December 2017, I had the pleasure of taking part in a huge project in my role at principal percussionist with the 21st Century Consort. H. Paul Moon, of Zen Violence Films, worked with the Consort to create a film version of Jon Deak’s The Passion of Scrooge that was written for our ensemble. For the past many years we have performed this piece around the holidays and we always have a full house. Moon has put together a truly stunning cinematic interpretation of Deak’s piece and it is a completely unique and wonderful experience.
Details about the film can be found HERE.
There will be a screening of the film in Washington, D.C. on December 8 at 3:30 pm at the Smithsonian American Art Gallery before our 5 pm concert. I hope to see you there!

Gearing up for PASIC 2017 Focus Day Performance

Hey Friends, I’m gearing up for my Focus Day performance at PASIC 2017 on Thursday November 9 at 9 am in the Indianapolis Convention Center, Wabash Ballroom. I’ll be presenting Stuart Saunders Smith’s stunning marimba opera entitled The Authors. The piece asks the performer to speak, sing, and act all while playing the marimba. It’s a stunning work of art and I hope that you’ll join me for the performance. Details about the PASIC performance can be found here.

The piece can be heard on my solo CD entitled “Theatrical Music for Solo Percussion” on Albany Records that I released in 2015. That CD can be found here. I recently rerecorded the piece at Stuart’s request for an upcoming five CD set of his music that will be released soon. Here’s some pics from the recording session at UMBC last May 2017 with Alan Wonneberger as engineer, Sylvia Smith as narrator for the final movement of the piece, and Stuart Smith as coach and guide through the recording process. It was great to revisit the piece again for a new recording and to try some new things for the second time around.