The percussion program at Northern Illinois University annually enrolls a total of 24 graduate and undergraduate students. Students study privately and in percussion ensemble with Robert Chappell, Rich Holly, Greg Beyer and Rodrigo Villanueva. Additional percussion instruction and ensembles are under the direction of Liam Teague, Clifford Alexis and Jui-Ching Wang.
Bachelor's degree options include Performance (including a major in Steel Pan), Music Education, Jazz Studies, Composition, and the Bachelor of Arts. Master of Music programs are available in Performance, the Individualized specialization (which would include World Music and Jazz Studies), and Music Education. We also offer the post-master's Performer's Certificate.
The percussion student at NIU is exposed to a wide variety of instructional and performance opportunities. Individual and class instruction on all orchestral percussion instruments, multiple percussion and drumset is required during the first two years of study. Upper division instruction includes contemporary keyboard percussion, jazz vibraphone, drumset, orchestral repertoire and world percussion. Participation in a large university performing ensemble (NIU Philharmonic, Wind Ensemble, Wind Symphony, etc.) and the percussion ensemble is required of all percussion majors every semester of applied study. The focus of the percussion ensemble alternates each semester between traditional percussion ensemble literature, marimba band/keyboard percussion ensemble, and world percussion (West African drumming, East African xylophone, Asian, Central and South American, Afro-Cuban and other Caribbean styles). Other performance opportunities for percussionists include jazz ensembles, jazz combos, and world music ensembles, such as Steel Band, North Indian tabla, Balinese and Javanese Gamelan and Peking Opera percussion.
The facilities at the NIU School of Music are among the finest in the United States, and for percussionists include 9 practice rooms, separate rehearsal halls for percussion ensemble, steel band and gamelan, three teaching studios, and a steel drum building and tuning room. Percussion instruments available for all majors to use include five complete sets of timpani (including one set of five Clevelander drums), nine marimbas, a bass marimba, four vibraphones, four xylophones, three sets of chimes and orchestra bells, and dozens of drums, cymbals, tam-tams and gongs as well as numerous accessory instruments. The percussion program also owns many Afro-Cuban instruments, more than 20 West African drums, and assorted Brazilian and Asian drums and hand instruments.
NIU percussion alumni currently perform with major symphony orchestras, well known jazz and pop music artists and/or professional percussion groups, teach at colleges and universities around the world, are studio and free-lance performers in numerous major cities, successful solo artists, published composers and public school music directors.
Each year the NIU percussion department sponsors guest appearances, clinics, and masterclasses by some of the world's finest percussion artists.