80 students join winter percussion

December 6, 2022 — by Nikhil Mathihalli
Members of winter percussion warm up and get ready in the “lot” — the location outside the performance venue — during the Northern California Percussion Alliance (NCPA) Championships at American Canyon High.
Winter percussion has split into two groups of practice in order to be prepared for their upcoming performances.

With the marching band’s season having ended with a fourth-place finish at the Sacramento regional championships on Nov. 5, winter percussion is now among the music groups that have begun practicing for spring-semester competitions.

Every year, percussion members in the band and other interested students come together and join winter percussion to craft a show where percussionists play mallet-based instruments together to tell a story through music and show design. This year, there are about 80 participants.

Winter percussion is run by band percussion director Sean Clark, who is involved with the Blue Devils, a competitive junior drum and bugle corps based in Concord. According to junior Rishi Vaidya, there are no official leadership positions, but veteran members typically take charge of initiative and train younger members.

This year’s performance is called “Stuck in Loops.” The theme revolves around how life gets mundane at times and the winter percussion group attempts to showcase the idea that humans need to take stark action to live in the moment instead of dwelling on the past or concentrating on the future through their music.

Last year’s theme was “Breakdown,” and percussion groups attempted to convey the idea that one must break down in order to build back up again. It was portrayed through the cycle of rocks — rocks break down into the sand and form the wind. They ultimately come together to form glass. In addition to their music, members of winter percussion conveyed this idea through their costumes — donned jackets that they took off during the middle of their performance to reveal brightly colored shirts. The costume relating to this year’s theme is still being decided.

To prepare for upcoming shows to perform music revolving around their theme, winter percussion has already begun practicing. Due to the increase in interest in winter percussion, there are two groups of students who will train for the upcoming performances — the A class and the open class. Vaidya, who has been in winter percussion for three years now, along with other experienced members of percussion will train in the open class, while less experienced members will get up to speed in the A class.

Members of the open class practice harder music pieces and harder visuals, whereas members of the A class build good foundations so that they can eventually be a part of the open class later.

According to Vaidya, this split in groups is mainly because the pandemic didn’t allow students at Redwood Middle School to get as much experience playing mallet-based instruments as they normally would have.

“COVID-19 really derailed many students who didn’t have a lot of experience with percussion,” Vaidya said. “We haven’t split into groups like this before, but I think it is a good way to get many students up to speed.”

These two groups will train for a few days during winter break and throughout the second semester for an upcoming show preview on Feb. 4 at the school. Their first show will be on Feb. 11, the location of which is yet to be determined, and their second show will be on March 4 at American Canyon High.

Apart from the rigor that is involved in preparing for their upcoming shows, Vaidya enjoys the experience of spending time with his fellow classmates to perform a piece that they worked so hard on together. He said he enjoys the connections he makes with other students in percussion and feels like he is a part of a family.

Vaidya’s positive experience with winter percussion leads him to encourage students to join winter percussion in the future to expand the program and make it as successful as other parts of the school’s music program.

“Really, it’s just working with people that I care about,” he said. “I enjoy spending time with those people to create something that is pretty cool. We’re telling a story and we’re putting [Saratoga] on the map while doing so.”

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