Areas of Study

Percussion Studies


The percussion program at Northern Illinois University annually enrolls a total of 24 graduate and undergraduate students. Each week, students study privately and in percussion topics class settings as well as participate in percussion ensemble, which presents three concerts each season. Dr. Gregory Beyer is Director of Percussion Studies and co-runs the studio with Michael Mixtacki. Additional opportunities for study and ensembles are offered under the direction and guidance of Rodrigo Villanueva, Robert Chappell, Liam Teague, Clifford Alexis, Omar al Musfi, 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 can include Contemporary Music Studies as well as World Music and Jazz Studies), and Music Education. We also offer the post-master's Performer's Certificate.

The percussion student at NIU enters into a family of highly intelligent, dedicated, talented and motivated students that fosters an environment where intense learning is both deep and broad. Through the eight-course system established for the first two years of undergraduate study, the percussion student is exposed to a wide variety of instructional and performance opportunities. These courses cover in-depth studies on all orchestral percussion instruments, mallets, timpani, multiple percussion, drum set as well as Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian music.

Upper division instruction continues to delve into each area; however, students are expected to hone their individual skills through the preparation of both their junior and senior recitals. Chamber music plays an increasingly important role throughout all four years of the undergraduate program.

Opportunities for ensemble participation at NIU are staggering. Participation in a large university performing ensemble (NIU Philharmonic, Wind Ensemble, or Wind Symphony) is required of all percussion majors every semester of applied study. The Percussion Ensemble offers three concerts annually, each featuring a different theme ranging from keyboard literature to contemporary literature to focuses on Brazilian and other world musics. Other performance opportunities for percussionists include the New Music Ensemble, jazz ensembles, jazz combos, and world music ensembles such as the Bau-House Berimbau Sextet, the Afro-Cuban Folkloric Ensemble, the Latin Jazz Ensemble, Steel Band, Middle-Eastern Music, 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 are plentiful, including 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 four complete sets of timpani (including one set of five Clevelander drums), nine marimbas (3 5.0 octave instruments), 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 and NIU percussion club co-sponsor guest appearances, clinics, and masterclasses by some of the world's finest percussion artists.

Recent guests include:

  • Keiko Abe
  • Africa West Trio
  • Carl Allen
  • Ruben Alvarez
  • Anders Astrand
  • Jim Atwood
  • Bob Becker
  • Louis Bellson
  • Michael Burritt
  • J. C. Combs
  • Gary Cook
  • Tony DiSanza
  • Robert Greenidge
  • Dean Gronemeier
  • Terreon Gully
  • Stefon Harris
  • Ed Harrison
  • Ray Holman
  • Steve Houghton
  • Zakir Hussain
  • Payton MacDonald
  • Victor Mendoza
  • Bill Molenhof
  • Dan Moore
  • Andy Narell
  • Douglas Perkins
  • Nick Petrella
  • Tito Puente
  • Jim Ross
  • Dane Richeson
  • N. Scott Robinson
  • Dave Samuels
  • Trichy Sankaran
  • Matt Savage
  • Steven Schick
  • Joel Spencer
  • Julie Spencer
  • Ray Spiegel
  • Michael Spiro
  • Leigh Howard Stevens
  • Jerry Tachoir
  • Ed Thigpen
  • Robert Van Sice
  • Tony Verderosa
  • Mark Walker
  • Dan Weiss
  • Paul Wertico
  • Bernard Woma
  • She-e Wu