27
Jul
12

Stitely Soundboard: Music camp is Birchin’

If you called the office last week looking for Jeff, you probably already know that he was out for the week. Where was he? He was teaching percussion to high school students at the Birch Creek Music Performance Center!

Located in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin, Birch Creek is an intensive, performance-based summer program that allows students to work with professional musicians. The Percussion and Steel Band program is said to be one of the most comprehensive educational experiences for the young drummer/percussionist. Students perform in percussion and mallet ensembles and participate in  world percussion classes as well. This was Jeff’s 23rd year in the program so we asked him about teaching and what keeps him going back for more.

Stitely Office (SO): How did you first get involved with Birch Creek?

JS: Twenty-two years ago I got a call from Robert Chappell who is the head percussionist at Northern Illinois University to come in and try it out.

SO: How many students did you work with and what did you teach?

JS: There were about 25-35 students in the percussion program and we worked with them 8-10 at a time. It was a great week immersing in music.  I wish I could do it once a month!

SO: What was your favorite part of the experience?

JS: The oldest members of the mallet playing class, aka the seniors, were so intimidated by playing the drum set. They were just so nervous, especially when it came to using both their hands and feet at the same time since that’s what you do with a drum set. So I told them to think back to when they were four years old and wanted to bang on everything, from pots, pans, and even the floor. Then I told them to take that inner four year old, and just bang on the drum set, bang on everything and just enjoy the sounds that come from the instrument. They actually had a lot of fun doing that and then said, “Alright let’s learn this thing!”

Another memory I loved was when the faculty played together. At the end of the program we have a percussion and steel band concert. The faculty got to play jazz together and it was just so much fun!

SO: If you could walk into a store that had every percussive instrument from around the world, what three instruments would you grab from the display?

JS: Probably a cajon, which is a Latin instrument and is basically a wooden box with a metal snare on the inside. I would also grab an upgraded V-drums, the new model by Roland, and probably a marimba. It’s such a beautiful sounding instrument and I wish I was a lot better at it. Oh, and probably the tabla from India.

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