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Percussion Study at Hartt

Our philosophy regarding percussion education is to be as all-inclusive as possible. To that end, our students typically study solo, chamber and orchestral repertoire, as well as improvisation, drum-set, and percussion instruments from other cultures (particularly from Africa, the Middle East, Cuba, Brazil, and Trinidad). We routinely hire guest teachers with focused areas of expertise in order to compliment our more traditional offerings. As a result, Hartt percussion alumni have been very successful in finding a variety of jobs throughout the country.

With an average enrollment of about 15 students, the Hartt percussion program fosters a healthy exchange of ideas and perspectives among the students and allows for personalized attention from the percussion faculty. The teaching/learning experience extends beyond the boundaries of applied lessons, as the Hartt percussion faculty employs an "open door" policy with the students--we are here to serve you.

The Hartt percussion program enjoys a rich tradition of excellence and diversity dating back more than fifty years, distinguishing The Hartt School as having one of the first percussion programs and percussion ensembles in the country. Founded and directed by Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame member Alexander Lepak from 1947-91, the Hartt percussion program has been directed by Benjamin Toth since 1992.

Students interested in learning more about the Hartt percussion program are encouraged to contact Professor Toth at (860) 768-5253, or via e-mail.


Applied Percussion Lessons: Weekly private study, emphasizing a comprehensive percussion education. Lessons are designed to meet the student's individual needs, initially developing a strong musical and technical foundation on a variety of percussion instruments. Upper-level students may elect to focus on orchestral, chamber, or solo repertoire.

Percussion Ensemble: Large and small ensembles perform standard percussion ensemble repertoire, as well as contemporary literature and premiere performances. The ensemble also explores various world music traditions. In addition, the HARTT STEELBAND presents concerts each spring.

Graduate Percussion Group: Emphasis on advanced percussion trio, quartet, quintet, and sextet repertoire. Professor Toth performs with the group for select projects.

Orchestral Repertoire/Percussion Literature Survey: In addition to the study, preparation, and performance of orchestral repertoire for all percussion instruments, the course outlines the history and literature of the Percussion Ensemble as an art form.

Weekly Master Classes/Performance Classes: Presented by the percussion faculty; often involve student participation and interaction. Guest performers/clinicians are invited each semester.


Two teaching studios: These studios house the percussion faculty's extensive instrument, mallet, and music collection -- all of which are used as a resource for the Hartt percussion students.

Seven percussion practice rooms: Housing a large inventory of well-maintained percussion instruments.

Personal practice rooms: In addition to the rooms mentioned above, each percussion student is assigned a secure, personal practice room to be shared with one or two other percussionists.



A personal audition/interview with the percussion faculty is required, although audio and videotapes will be accepted in special circumstances. Auditions need not be accompanied. Warm-up facilities will be provided the day of the audition. Each audition should represent the applicant's highest level of accomplishment on the various percussion instruments outlined below:

All Degree Programs
Except the Jazz program; for information on auditions for this program, (click here.)

Snare Drum: [1] prepared solo or etude, [2] demonstrate orchestral long roll, [3] sight reading

Mallet Keyboard Instruments: [1] prepared solo and/or etude, [2] demonstrate scales, [3] sight reading

Timpani: [1] prepared solo or etude, and/or orchestral excerpts, [2] demonstrate tuning ability.

Orchestral Excerpts: Optional for undergraduate applicants, recommended for graduate applicants. Prepared drum-set demonstrations or solos; hand-drumming demonstrations; and multiple-percussion solos or etudes are not required, but may be presented.



The Hartt Percussion Department's long list of illustrious alumni includes: member of the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, Emil Richards; drummer and Co-Founder of the Los Angeles-based Percussion Institute, Joe Porcaro; Los Angeles-based studio musician and free-lance percussionist, Judy Chilnick; composer Stuart Saunders Smith; timpanist Telly Lesbines (Milwaukee Symphony); New York-based musicians Steve Little (Stan Getz, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Sesame Street), Thad Wheeler (Broadway musicals and road shows, Steve Reich), Gary Seligson (Broadway musicals and recording artist), and Tom Oldakowski (Radio City Music Hall); D.C.I. video clinician and instrument designer, Bob Gatzen; Professor of Percussion at the Prague Conservatory, Amy Barber; principal timpanist with the Hartford Symphony, Gene Bozzi; percussionists for various Broadway and off-Broadway productions, Ed Fast and Mike Dobson; drummer for the Jackie McLean Quintet, Eric McPherson; steel drum builder and tuner, Kyle Dunleavy; concert artist, and founder of "J-DNA" Music Productions/Recordings (Japan), Hiroshi Chu Okubo; and percussionist for Yo-Yo Ma's "Silk Road Ensemble", Glen Velez's "Handance" ensemble, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, and various Broadway productions, Shane Shanahan.

Other Hartt percussion graduates have gone on to successful careers as steel drum builders, music therapists, public school and university teachers, acousticians, recording engineers, and arts administrators. Hartt percussion alums can be found in every major music market from coast to coast, including Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.

Students currently enrolled in the Hartt percussion program are frequently employed as freelance musicians throughout New England - with symphony orchestras, music theater companies, dance companies and schools, and various other ensembles. Hartt percussion students are also employed by area drum shops, school systems, and universities as applied percussion instructors. In addition, the Hartt Percussion Ensemble, Graduate Percussion Trio, and Steelband each maintain a busy concert schedule, having performed at Percussive Arts Society International Conventions; in New York City; Boston; Baltimore; and for schools, festivals, and concert series throughout New England and the Mid-west.

Please see the Percussion Alumni page for a listing of positions held by former students of Benjamin Toth.

Please visit Benjamin Toth's web page.

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