Rowan’s Percussion Ensemble honors legend Gordon Stout with electrifying performance

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"The clashing and clanging of the cymbals made for an intense, thunder-like sound that rang through Pfleeger." - Staff Writer / Beth Cimaglia.

On April 15, Rowan’s Department of Music—the percussion ensemble—performed the work of a legend in Pfleeger Concert Hall. The spring ensemble lit up Pfleeger music hall with bright Brazilian sounds from the marimba as they performed some of Stout’s infamous pieces.

“It is very special for all of us. It is a concert dedicated to the great percussionist and composer Gordon Stout,” said Dr. Fabio Oliveira, the director of percussion studies at Rowan. 

“Gordon is a legend in the world of music, in the world of percussion,” said Dr. Oliveira, “…The Percussive Arts Society inducted him into the Hall of Fame about a decade ago. Suppose you’re a percussionist anywhere in the world, Asia, Oceania, Europe, the United States of course, or South America. In that case, you will have heard and played Gordon Stout’s music for the last forty or fifty years.”

Professor Stout was on day two of his visit with Rowan’s music students. On Sunday, April 14, Stout worked with the students directly on the pieces he composed himself many years ago.

“…For our students yesterday they got to spend the afternoon with Professor Stout working on the pieces for the program today,” said Dr. Oliveira.

The ensemble opened with Sinfonietta, a piece Stout composed in 2019 for a group in Japan. The ensemble performed the piece on marimbas, which are a percussion instrument that looks almost like long keyboards with wooden bars. The musicians play by hitting the bars with four mallets, two for each hand.  

“We are only the second group to play the piece so we’re very very proud of the work all of our students did to play these three movements–  the connected three movements of Sinfonietta,” said Dr. Oliveira. 

In between pieces by Stout, the ensemble performed a suspended cymbal quartet, Cymbalisms, by composer Viet Cuong. The piece was the only one in the program by a composer other than Gordon Stout. Cymbalisms, as it sounds, was a piece performed on cymbals. The clashing and clanging of the cymbals made for an intense, thunder-like sound that rang through Pfleeger. 

After Cymbalisms crashed through the theater, the ensemble moved on, back to Stout. Performing Look Forward With Your Feet, a percussion quintet backed up soloist Rodolph Kreutzer on the marimba.  

Rowan music allows students to perform solos to enhance their skills and resumes. Building them up as artists, solo performances are a staple in the ensemble for students. At the end of the performance. Dr Fabio Oliveira directed the students of the ensemble to take a seat in the audience as Professor Gordan Stout took the stage to perform Elegy for Ukraine. 

“We should’ve played this before the last piece because it’s kind of a sad, slow piece, whereas the last one was kind of exciting and dance-like, and happy,” said composer Gordon Stout in his Ukraine piece. The Ukraine piece, written by Stout in 2022, made about two thousand dollars, all of which were sent to aid Ukraine. 

“This is music that is very special to me because of that,” said Professor Stout. 

The sounds of the marimba, alongside the cymbal piece, made it feel like the music hall was in the middle of a forest. The audience was taken into South America with Brazilian sounds, and into the forests of Asia with the xylophone-like sounds of the marimba. As for music legend Gordan Stout, he seemed very proud of Rowan’s students, as did director Dr. Oliveira.

“It’s the best opportunity for our students to get coached by a master… to be able to go out into the concert to listen with everybody else tonight. This is what we believe in, this is an important mission for our programs here,” said Dr. Oliveira. 

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