The word percussion comes from the Latin word percussionem, meaning 'to strike.' But as WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, playing percussion in a symphony orchestra also requires rhythm, musicality, and physical grace.
Percussion instruments can keep the beat, but they also add color. Angela Zator Nelson is The Philadelphia Orchestra’s associate principal timpani and a member of the percussion section.
This week, percussion students from the U.S. and countries as far away as Argentina and Asia are gathering at Temple’s Boyer College of Music and Dance for a seminar led by a former Philadelphia Orchestra percussionist. As WRTI's Susan Lewis reports, Alan Abel continues year round to share his talents as a musician and craftsman.
Music lives on a leafy street in the Philadelphia suburb of Wynnewood, where a former Philadelphia Orchestra percussionist and longtime teacher continues to share his talents as a musician and craftsman. WRTI’s Susan Lewis visits percussionist Alan Abel:
Lewis: Abel’s basement was long ago transformed into a studio where he teaches current students, and coaches former students for orchestra auditions.
Abel: I bought a five octave marimba to accommodate the students and auditionees. This came in pieces... Now, the timpani, that’s another story...This is an old old xylophone ...that’s an interesting bass drum.. and my bass drum stand, which I invented in the early to mid '60s.
Lewis: Today, orchestras all over the world use Abel’s suspended drum stands – as well as the triangles he began manufacturing 50 years ago. In a backyard workshop, Abel teaches groups of students to create triangle HOOKs – from coat hangers, plastic tubing, and fishing line – that hold the instrument just so.
Abel: I’ll show you what happens when you suspend it...Now I can play faster rhythms...I can also play rolls.
Learn more about Alan Abel’s philosophy on music.
Lewis: Three of the four members of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s current percussion section studied with Abel, including Principal Chris Deviney.
Deviney: Jan, his wife, offered you tea, and then you’d go down into the basement, or we’d call it the dungeon sometimes, and you’d have your lesson, and you felt really kind of like you were an extension of his family.
Lewis: Although he retired as a full time member in 1997, Abel continues to play with The Philadelphia Orchestra when it calls.
Jim Cotter speaks with Yannick Nezet-Seguin, music director designate of The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Susan Lewis profiles the legendary percussionist Alan Abel.
David Patrick Stearns examines the relationship between star tenor Stephen Costello and his coach Bill Schuman, an Academy of Vocal Arts faculty member who is considered to be one of the great voice builders - and re-builders - in the business.