What do you think of when you hear the word “percussion”? Drums? Marching? Someone striking something? 

For Annie Stevens, director of the Virginia Tech Percussion Ensemble, percussion is storytelling involving a sonic and visual feast showcased by a variety of instrument combinations.

“A Night of Percussion,” a concert on Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, encompasses all of these elements and then some, as the evening features musical styles from the Virginia Tech Percussion Ensemble, the Virginia Tech West African Drumming Ensemble with guest artist Otu Kojo, and Escape Ten. 

One of the highlights from the performances by the Virginia Tech Percussion Ensemble is “Peaux,” a piece composed by Innais Xenakis for six percussionists. Stevens, an assistant professor of percussion in the Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts, says this tour-de-force is normally done by graduate or professional percussionists, but her undergraduate ensemble is exceptional.

“Appalachian Morning” by Paul Halley, an energetic, exciting, and melodic piece, will be brought to life by 14 percussion students under Stevens’ direction. Another piece by Casey Cangelosi, “Theatric No. 10 Playback Reduction,” will be performed with the fun element of glow-in-the-dark visual sound choreography.

The Virginia Tech West African Drum Ensemble, a newly formed group made up of Virginia Tech students, faculty, and community members, will be led by Otu Kojo, a Ghanaian drummer. Kojo is teaching as part of a College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Diversity Grant that Stevens secured for the fall 2018 semester.

The ensemble is learning on the traditional djembe and kpanlogo drums from Ghana, and will be performing a coming-of-age song and story taught by Kojo, among others. This ensemble has no musical score, as all members are learning the techniques and songs from Kojo in the way they are handed down in Ghana.

Stevens represents half of Escape Ten, a duo with Andrea Venet, who is on faculty at the University of North Florida. The two began their musical collaboration in 2012 after an initial cross-country performance tour. They have since recorded two albums and performed their arrangements around the country and internationally.

Escape Ten’s repertoire includes not only classical pieces, but contemporary, jazz, and pop selections as well. Stevens and Venet have commissioned many works for percussion duo, including a piece they’ll play at the concert called “Clear Midnight,” by Michael Burritt, their mentor at the Eastman School of Music.

The Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre is located in the Moss Arts Center at 190 Alumni Mall on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus.

Tickets and Parking

Tickets for “A Night of Percussion,” which are $10 for general admission and $7 for students, may be purchased online. Tickets may also be purchased at the Moss Arts Center ticket office or by calling 540-231-5300. Tickets will be available at the Moss Arts Center ticket office just prior to the performance. 

Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Additional parking is available after 5 p.m. on weekdays on Alumni Mall; in the Squires Lot, located at the corner of College Avenue and Otey Streets; in the Architecture Annex Lot on Otey Street; and in the Perry Street/Prices Fork lots. Find more parking information online or call 540-231-3200. Additional downtown Blacksburg parking information can be found online.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Susan Sanders at susansan@vt.edu or call 540-231-5200 during regular business hours.  

Written by Amy Baldwin, a graduate student in directing and public dialogue in the School of Performing Arts.