Rhythm, precision, melody and collaboration. There were several layers of sounds echoing through the South Texas College Student Union during the STC Percussion Ensemble’s fall concert held earlier this month.
The student musicians embraced the opportunity to share what they learned and accomplished this fall with family, friends and classmates.
Members of the STC Percussion Studio, under the direction of Ron F. Schermerhorn, were invited to several competitions and community events this semester, all while balancing their classes and personal lives.
“The students are dedicated and could honestly do performances every week, but we can’t push too much because they need to focus on their classes and work,” Schermerhorn said. “They’re often invited to perform for area high schools or for the community. We’ll do early morning events so they have time to get back to their classes here. We always try to make sure that no one’s going to miss class.”
The STC Percussion Studio first began in 2011 and is open to music majors and non-majors. It includes the Percussion Ensemble and the STC Drumline and continues to push the envelope in all realms of percussion, Schermerhorn said.
The current studio includes students Gabriel Renner, Rey Gonzalez, Jorge Ruiz, Caleb Martinez and Abe Villarreal. The major highlights for the percussionists this year included two competitions and an invitation to be a featured ensemble at the nationally-known Texas Music Educators Association Clinic/Convention.
The STC Drumline competed in the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) in Indianapolis, Indiana last month. This marks the third time the group has attended the event.
“It’s the most impressive group of percussionists in the country,” Schermerhorn said. “It’s an international convention where essentially all the big names in percussion – virtuosic artists, music industries, high schools and colleges – gather. It really is the biggest gathering for percussion in the world.”
The STC students were able to attend clinics, masterclasses and musical showcases at PASIC.
This was the second year that music major Rey Gonzalez was invited to participate.
“It was amazing,” Gonzalez, 22, said. “Just being there and watching all these levels of professionals perform and learning so much from other musicians was inspiring. I was just soaking it all in.”
The STC Drumline also traveled to Corpus Christi for the Tierras South Texas Percussion Competition. A partnership between the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Texas A&M International University, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University-Kingsville and STC, Schermerhorn said the competition reflects the power of music and collaboration.
“It’s a standard high school and collegiate competition, but the cool thing about this particular percussion collaborative is that it’s between five institutions,” Schermerhorn said. “So, we get together and create this really fun, rewarding event that pushes the boundaries of competitiveness, but with education as the primary goal and aspect.”
Under Schermerhorn, the STC students are able to study orchestral snare, marching percussion, marimba, timpani and much more.
All the percussion students agreed that once they learned what STC had to offer they were excited to join the department.
STC music major Jorge Ruiz, 21, said he was encouraged by his former high school director to join the STC department because of the quality of music education he would receive.
“My director told me about all the possibilities and everything that was available here at STC, and I was really amazed because I didn’t know they had a drumline,” Ruiz said. “I didn’t know they had all this going on. That’s what brought me here to STC.”
Being a member of the drumline is also a highlight for Gonzalez.
“The vibe of the drumline is awesome,” Gonzalez said. “And what everybody brings to the table is awesome. We all have a good time while we’re playing.”
Even though the fall semester just ended, the Percussion Ensemble is already making plans for spring. The student musicians were selected to be a featured performing College/University Percussion Ensemble at the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) Convention in San Antonio in February 2023.
“The TMEA music convention is really the biggest in all 50 states and two territories,” Schermerhorn said. “There’s no music education convention that is bigger than this, so to get invited is very difficult and to play there is an honor.”
Drumline member Caleb Martinez said he wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else at this point in his education.
“My high school instructor was actually one of Schermerhorn’s students back in the day,” Martinez said. “He recommended I go here, so I did. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because I feel like I’ve gotten better as a musician.”
And, Schermerhorn will continue to search for new opportunities for his students.
“The exposure they get is amazing,” Schermerhorn said. “It not only improves them as a musician but as a student and person.”
For more information about the music program at South Texas College, visit www.southtexascollege.edu/academics/music/.
Photo Caption: The South Texas College Drumline includes, from left, Jorge Ruiz, Rey Gonzalez, Gabriel Renner and Caleb Martinez. Under the direction of Ron F. Schermerhorn, the student musicians have participated in several collegiate competitions this semester.