Winter Percussion steps up its game

March 8, 2017 — by Elaine Fan

Winter Percussion improves in order to yield better results. 

Each day after school, Winter Percussion’s presence echoes in the school’s hallways as thunderous rhythms resound from the music quad.

After their second competition in Fresno on March 4, the 29 members are in the heart of their season as they try to perfect their show, which is based on the theme “leveling up.’

On Feb. 4, the Winter Percussion traveled to California High School in San Ramon for their first competition, placing fifth out of six groups in the open class. It wasn’t their best performance.

“We fell apart all over the place,” senior Ally Kim said.

According to Kim, the ensemble has faced difficulties in reaching the standard they have reached in previous years, due to difficult music and a lack of experience among new members. Only three students have played in front ensemble for marching band or winter percussion consistently. Around eight to nine members are new this year or have little previous experience.

According to senior Daniel Liu, it is difficult having new members because they have a lot to pick up in a short time.

“They need to learn how to play mallets, then learn the music, then learn other logistics stuff like loading, coiling and setup,” Liu said. “However, everyone has been working hard and I’ve seen good improvement.”

According to Liu, the disarray at the competition could have been a result of nerves, since the rehearsals had gone relatively well. Many members had never done an actual setup for competition beforehand, and the announcer’s cue was different from what they rehearsed with, which led to some confusion.

At their second competition in Fresno, the group placed eighth out of nine schools in their division, missing their chance to enter finals.

“Since our show wasn’t done, we didn’t get very far,” said junior Vishal Narayan. “But from the comments we got based on our incomplete show, we’re motivated and optimistic about the rest of the season.”

Their next competition will take place on April 1 at Mountain House High School, one week before their last competition of the season at Logan High School.

Freshman David Zhou, one of the synthesizer players, acts like “a backing voice” for the ensemble and is active for most of the show since his instrument is so flexible. As a result, he found that it was more obvious when he made mistakes.

“Executing the theme has been going pretty smoothly. Most of the challenge for me personally has been the music itself,” Zhou said.

To build on the theme of “leveling up,” the music gradually speeds up and the rhythms escalate in complexity as the show goes on. In the first movement, the front ensemble starts by kneeling on the ground, and everyone plays one note each. By the time the music enters the second movement, the members of the front ensemble have four mallets in their hands.

The music also incorporates gaming sounds, ascending chromatics, coin sounds and many other sound effects, which are managed by the synthesizer players.

The group had another challenge at the competition when one of their xylophone players, freshman Trent Glenn, broke his wrist over the February break in a snowboarding accident, rendering him unable to play. The group has been making minor adjustments to fill in his part for the upcoming competition.

Another issue Winter Percussion has faced is staffing that has remained inconsistent in past years.

This year, the instructors from last year were completely replaced by a new staff, which now includes Adam and Amanda Tsukamoto, Jared Baltazar, Chavadith Tantavirojn and Connor Carroll.

Since new staff often teach different techniques, the team has had to learn new exercises and sometimes completely relearn their techniques. One year, the team transitioned from an eastern style to a more western style, which was the complete opposite of what they had learned before.

However, despite staff and schedule changes as well as new members, the team has been improving through practice and is more prepared for upcoming competitions.

“I’d like for us to sound good and be good, but it’s really not about being good,” Kim said. “I don’t have as much of an expectation for being great that for getting better and just enjoying myself and my last time being a part of this ensemble.”

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