UCLA Percussion Ensemble Fall 2023 - Lift Ev’ry Voice: Music by Black Composers
The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
Monday, November 20, 2023
UCLA Schoenberg Hall
Theresa Dimond, Director
The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Percussion EnsembleSee Roster
Theresa DimondDirector See Bio
Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Theresa Dimond began her percussion studies with Mervin Britton at age 8. Upon moving to Los Angeles, she attended the University of Southern California where she studied with Ken Watson, earning a B.M., M.M. and D.M.A. in Music Performance. As a student, she also attended the Interlochen National Music Camp, the Aspen Music Festival, the Music Academy of the West and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute. She has studied with the late Mitchell Peters (Los Angeles Philharmonic), Neil De Ponte (Oregon Symphony), F. Michael Combs (formerly of the University of Tennessee) and the late Charlie Owens (Philadelphia Orchestra).
Dimond is currently the principal percussionist of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra. She has been a member of the orchestra since its inception in 1985. The LA Opera Orchestra has recently won four Grammy Awards for its recordings of Kurt Weill’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, and John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versaille.
As a free-lance musician in Los Angeles, Dimond has worked with every orchestral ensemble in the city, including the LA Philharmonic and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. As well as her duties at LA Opera, she is currently Principal Percussion of the Pasadena Symphony and Pops and Principal Timpanist of Muse/ique, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the California Philharmonic. She has worked with many preeminent conductors including Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas, Jeffrey Kahane, Placido Domingo, Herbert Blomstedt, Kent Nagano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gustavo Dudamel and James Conlon. A highlight of her career has been performing with soprano Dawn Upshaw, and members of the Boston Symphony, on a contemporary music tour. Dr. Dimond has also appeared as soloist at the Aspen, Sun Valley and Tanglewood Summer Music Festivals.
Dimond serves on the faculties of UCLA, UC, Irvine, Pomona College, Whittier College and Cerritos College. She has previously taught at her alma mater, USC. In 1998, she founded TouchDown Publications, a music publishing company which edits and publishes opera percussion parts.
One of a handful of experts on the cimbalom, a Hungarian hammered dulcimer, she has performed with Pierre Boulez, Lalo Schifrin, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kurt Masur, Dawn Upshaw, and Grant Gershon on that specialty instrument. Her recording credits include The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons, Far from Heaven, The Dewey Cox Story, Rush Hour 3, Rocky 5, andEdward Scissorhands, to name but a few.
Dimond makes her home in the Mt. Washington area of Los Angeles, with her husband, Jim, their dog, Monte, and their two cats, Tiggy and Widget.
Quinn Mason (b. 1996)
Weapon Wheel (2018, rev. 2019)
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) arr. Ralph Hardimon
Le Tombeau de Couperin (1914-1917)
Mbira Music, Book 1 (1986)
JaRon Brown (b. 1979)
Fragmented Shards of Crystallized Water (2015)
Katlyn Lang, Flute
Mathew Harget, Saxophone
Josh Gottry (b. 1974)
Scott Joplin (1868-1917)
Elite Syncopations (1902)
Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967) arr. Chris Brooks
Take the A Train (1962)
This event is made possible by the David and Irmgard Dobrow Fund. Classical music was a passion of the Dobrows, who established a generous endowment at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music to make programs like this possible. We are proud to celebrate this program as part of the 2023 – 24 Dobrow Series.
Weapon Wheel by Quinn Mason
Quinn Mason (b. 1996) is a composer and conductor living in Dallas, Texas. He currently holds the position of Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s Artist-in-Residence. In 2022, Mason was the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Classical Roots Composer-in-Residence, the youngest composer ever appointed to that role.
His chamber music has been performed and presented by many celebrated musical organizations including Voices of Change, Midsummer’s Music, The Cliburn, One Found Sound, loadbang, MAKE trio, Atlantic Brass Quintet, Axiom Brass, and the Cézanne. His solo music has been championed by distinguished soloists such as David Cooper (Principal Horn, Chicago Symphony), Lara Downes (Concert Pianist), Holly Mulcahy (Concertmaster, Wichita Symphony), Jordan Bak (Viola soloist), and Michael Hall (Viola soloist).
Weapon Wheel for three concert bass drums was composed in 2018 and subsequently revised in 2019. The work premiered on May 4, 2019, in a performance by its dedicatees, Austin Allen and Jacob Hord, and the composer.
The composer says of his work:
“As a percussionist, I’ve played a lot of unusual repertoires and thought I would add to them by composing this piece for three bass drums. It was a true exercise in keeping the music interesting with unpitched instruments by creating rhythms that reinvent themselves in different ways throughout the composition and utilizing melodic style tradeoffs between the three performers. A theatrical element was added in the cadenza in which the music pushes itself over the edge, inviting the percussionists to take free rein of what happens next.”
Le Tombeau de Couperin by Marice Ravel, arr. Hardimon
Le Tombeau de Couperin (The Grave of Couperin) was composed as a suite for solo piano by Maurice Ravel between 1914 and 1917. The piece is in six movements, based on those of a traditional Baroque suite. Each movement is dedicated to friends of the composer who died fighting in World War I. Ravel also produced a four-movement orchestral version of the work in 1919, omitting two of the original movements.
The word tombeau is a 17th Century musical term that means a piece written as a memorial. François Couperin, the specific Baroque composer cited here, was known for his harpsichord works. Ravel stated that his intention was to pay homage more generally to Baroque French keyboard music, not necessarily to Couperin himself. Movement I, Prelude, was dedicated to First Lieutenant Jacques Charlot who transcribed Ravel’s Ma mère l’oye from duo piano to solo piano form, and subsequently perished in World War I. The Prelude is marked Vif, which means lively.
This piece was arranged for percussion by Percussive Arts Society (PAS) Hall of Fame musician, Ralph Hardimon. Mostly known for his work with drum corps, Hardimon has had a long and varied career including associations with the Santa Clara Vanguard, the Velvet Knights, the USC Trojan Marching Band, the Anaheim Kingsmen Drum and Bugle Corps, and the Blue Devils. Hardimon is also an inductee in the Drum Corps International (DCI) Hall of Fame.
Mbira Music, Book 1 by Alonso Alexander
The mbira is a musical instrument traditional to the Shona people of Zimbabwe. It consists of a wooden board or wooden resonator box with attached staggered metal tines. It is played by holding the instrument in both hands and plucking the tines with the thumbs, and sometimes the right and left forefingers. The lowest note is always in the center of the instrument, and the tines alternate, going higher in pitch on either side of the central lowest tone. Because of the use of mostly the thumb to play the mbira, it is often referred to as a “thumb piano.” Traditional mbira music holds an important place in the culture of Eastern and Southern Africa, being central to many religious ceremonies, weddings, and other social gatherings. Interestingly, the “Art of crafting and playing Mbira/Sansi, the finger-plucking traditional musical instrument in Malawi and Zimbabwe” was added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2020.
Pianist and composer Alonso Alexander attended the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, a specialist in the performance and writing of contemporary music. He has numerous premieres to his credit. This piece was commissioned and premiered by Percussion Group Cincinnati, the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.
Fragmented Shards of Crystallized Water by JaRon Brown
Fragmented Shards of Crystallized Water is scored for flute, soprano saxophone, glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, two marimbas, piano, and two percussionists playing two slapsticks, surdo, cabasa, bongos, suspended cymbals, tambourine, kick drum, China cymbal, hi-hat, and woodblock. This programmatic work is an amalgamation of flute and soprano saxophone duet accompanied by percussion ensemble. This piece illustrates, in a pseudo-jazzy manner, the process of frost sticking to blades of grass, just as the sun rises above the horizon. Similarly, like Jacob Druckman’s Reflections on the Nature of Water, the audience hears the motion and abstract conceptualization of water through musical themes and cells marked Atmospheric, Resonant, Reflective, Sassy with attitude, Mellow, Flowing, Pulsing, Calmer, Bright-Joyous, and Soaring-Explosive.
Composer JaRon Brown holds a bachelor’s degree in music composition from the University of South Carolina. He studied composition with Dr. John Fitz Rogers and Dr. David K. Garner, as well as percussion with Dr. Scott Herring and Dr. Brett Landry. While at the University of South Carolina, he premiered four of his most performed works including Fragmented Shards of Crystallized Water (2015), Neurobaloo (2016), RIPEHEART (2017), and Giant Woman (2017). Most recently Brown provided original music for the play Growing up Alice.
Tubz by Josh Gottry
Music developed from the sounds of natural objects (stones and animal hides), not from objects specifically designed for their individualized musical qualities (flutes and lyres). Musical instruments came much later. An entire genre of music, as old as music itself, and ironically, also considered as avant garde as any music performed, is known as music for found objects. Examples include body percussion (stomping, clapping, whistling), playing on glass objects, banging pots and pans, or the rhythmic sweep of a broom. It is impossible to ignore the contributions of this genre to the percussion chamber music oeuvre.
Tubz, firmly rooted in the found object genre, is a work that endeavors to use two lengths of plastic tubing and a chair to make music. While a simple concept, the difficulty lies in interpreting the musical symbols and notation. The player makes use of only two objects, while the music contains eight differing symbols to indicate right or left hand, or where to hit the chair to produce different sounds.
Josh Gottry studied percussion at Northern Arizona University, and composition at Arizona State University. He is currently on the faculty of the Chandler-Gilbert Community College, where he teaches music theory, composition, and percussion. Mr. Gottry has become known for his excellent mid-range pedagogical works for percussion.
Elite Syncopations by Scott Joplin
Elite Syncopations is a 1902 solo piano composition by American composer Scott Joplin. The cover of the original sheet music prominently features a well-dressed man and woman sitting on a treble staff, looking down upon a cherub playing cymbals. The piece is one of Joplin’s over 40 ragtime solo piano works, arranged here for mallet ensemble by David Long.
The piece features four distinct themes after a short introduction. The A and B themes are in F major, which modulates to B-flat major by the beginning of the C section, where the tonality remains until the end of the piece. Even though these key centers are very evident, a good portion of the piece is somewhat chromatic.
Scott Joplin (1868 -1917) was an African-American composer and pianist. Known as the “King of Ragtime”, he composed more than 40 ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. His most famous piece was the Maple Leaf Rag, which became the genre’s first and most influential hit, later being recognized by other ragtime composers as the quintessential rag. Joplin considered ragtime to be a form of classical music meant to be played in concert halls and largely disdained the performance of ragtime as honky-tonk music to be performed in social halls and saloons.
Joplin was famous in his lifetime, both as composer and performer of rags. He owed much of that popularity to the rise in the publishing of sheet music for amateur piano performance. One of his pieces was published in the first year any ragtime piece was published. Also, he took great advantage of the Chicago World’s Fair held in 1893. For this historic event, Joplin formed a band in which he played cornet and also arranged the band’s music. Although the World’s Fair minimized the involvement of African Americans, black performers still came to the saloons, cafés and brothels that lined the fair. The exposition was attended by 27 million visitors and had a profound effect on American cultural life. Numerous sources have credited the Chicago World’s Fair with exploding the popularity of ragtime. Joplin found that his music, as well as that of other black performers, gained in popularity from that moment on. By 1897, ragtime had become a national craze in the United States. Joplin benefitted greatly both in reputation and financially from this exposure.
Scott Joplin lived 48 short years. At the end of his life, he developed dementia and was committed to a mental hospital, where he died a few months later. Joplin’s death is widely considered to mark the end of ragtime as a mainstream music. Thankfully, Joplin’s music was rediscovered and returned to popularity in the early 1970s with the release of a solo piano album recorded by Joshua Rifkin. This was followed by the Academy Award–winning 1973 film The Sting, which featured several of Joplin’s compositions, most notably “The Entertainer”, performed by pianist Marvin Hamlisch. It won the Academy Award for best film soundtrack. Treemonisha, Joplin’s only surviving opera, was finally produced in full, to wide acclaim, in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Marirumba by Rolando Morales-Matos
The term rumba refers to a variety of unrelated mostly Cuban musical styles. Originally, rumba was used as a synonym for “party” in northern Cuba, and by the late 19th century it was used to denote the varied complex jumble of secular Cuban musical styles. Since the early 20th century, the term has been used in different countries to refer to distinct styles of music and dance, most of which are only tangentially related to the original Cuban rumba, if at all. In addition, rumba was the primary marketing term for Cuban music in North America during much of the 20th century, before the rise of the distinct Cuban mambo and salsa styles. In the U.S. the term rumba, usually anglicized as rhumba, became used as a verb to denote a distinct ballroom dance, apart from the original folkloric musical styles.
Marirumba, a piece in four movements, is written for six players, each performing on one five-octave marimba, with six cowbells, and many congas. The cowbells have a distinct pitch which adds melodic interest to the interlocking Latin rhythms. The piece begins simply with every player having one note of a rhythmic figure. The rhythm soon becomes more complex, with players having bigger and bigger pieces of the complete groove. Eventually the marimba is added, with each player having 2 or 3 pitches added to complete the ensemble, giving the piece a layered rhythmic, melodic and harmonic aspect.
Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rolando Morales-Matos began his musical studies at the prestigious performing arts high school, Escuela Libre de Música. He received his B.F.A. in music from Carnegie Mellon University, his M.A. from Duquesne University, and a Certificate of Professional Studies from Temple University. He is a percussionist and assistant conductor with Disney’s Lion King on Broadway and performs and records regularly in New York City with various Latin jazz groups and chamber orchestras. Mr. Morales-Matos teaches at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City and the Curtis Institute of Music.
Take the A Train by Billy Strayhorn
William Thomas Strayhorn aka Billy Strayhorn (1915 – 1967) was an American jazz composer, pianist, lyricist, and arranger. He is most famous for his three- decades-long collaboration with bandleader, pianist and composer Duke Ellington. Strayhorn’s compositions include Take the A Train, a jazz standard which was the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s trademark song.
Though classical music was Strayhorn’s first love, his ambition to become a classical composer was foiled by the harsh reality of a black man trying to make it in the classical world, which at that time was impossible. Strayhorn was then introduced to the music of pianists like Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson as a teenager. The artistic influence of these musicians guided him into the realm of jazz, where he remained for the rest of his life.
As an adult, Strayhorn was very involved in civil causes. Strayhorn, an openly gay man, had the support of his friends and the members of the Ellington band. As a good friend of Martin Luther King Jr., he arranged and conducted King Fit the Battle of Alabama for the Ellington Orchestra to record in 1963 on the album My People.
Billy Strayhorn died in 1967 after a battle with esophageal cancer. Duke Ellington, in his autobiography listed what he considered Strayhorn’s “four major moral freedoms: freedom from hate, unconditionally; freedom from self-pity (even through all the pain and bad news); freedom from fear of possibly doing something that might possibly help another more than it might himself, and freedom from the kind of pride that might make a man think that he was better than his brother or his neighbor.”
Take the A Train was composed in 1939, after Ellington offered Strayhorn a job in his organization and gave him money to travel from Pittsburgh to New York City to join him. Ellington wrote directions for Strayhorn to get to his house by subway. The directions began with the words “Take the A train”, referring to the then-new A subway service that runs through New York City, going from eastern Brooklyn, up into Harlem and northern Manhattan. Ellington first recorded the work in 1941. It was featured in the 1943 film Reveille with Beverly with an intriguing video of the band performing inside a railroad passenger car.