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USC Thornton percussionist makes a sound decision

USC Thornton faculty
USC faculty member Joseph Pereira outside Walt Disney Concert Hall (Photo/Matthew Imaging)

While the Los Angeles Philharmonic is accustomed to premiering new works from noted composers, it is rare for the music to come from within the orchestra.

As part of the final Green Umbrella program of the season on May 8 at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the orchestra will premiere Concerto for Percussion and Chamber Orchestra, a new work from USC Thornton School of Music faculty member Joseph Pereira, in a concert that will focuses on drums and song.

Pereira, principal timpanist of the Philharmonic, was commissioned by its creative chair John Adams.

When offered the commission, Pereira sought to write for his own instrument. “There is not a strong tradition of concertos for percussion,” he said. “We don’t have the same concerto repertoire as the violin or other instruments.”

Pereira sought to write for Scottish percussionist Colin Currie, who will make his Walt Disney Concert Hall debut in the concerto.

When asked to explain his dual roles as an orchestral musician and composer, Pereira noted that the nature of his instrument lends itself to composition.

“With percussion, there is so much experimentation and creativity to get the right sound,” he said. “Our thinking about tone and the production of sound in general is similar to composing. As a percussionist, while it may not be your music, you are making decisions on how it will sound.”

Pereira explained that the Philharmonic has featured a number of percussionists over the years that have gained recognition for their compositions.

William Craft, a Philharmonic member from 1955 until 1985, was a composer-in-residence who formed the orchestra’s New Music Group. Mitchell Peters, a former principal timpanist with the orchestra, has composed many well-known pieces for percussion, as well as educational books on playing methods.

“It’s interesting, but the timpani players before me in the L.A. Philharmonic have all been composers,” Pereira said. “Bill Craft eventually left the orchestra to compose full time, and Mitch Peters, who retired in 2006, has written extensively for percussion. So there is somewhat of a tradition.”

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USC Thornton percussionist makes a sound decision

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