Hidden in the Background: The Percussionists in the Orchestra

When one thinks of the instruments in an orchestra, they think of the usual violins, cellos, and violas. However, in the full orchestra, there are more than just the typical orchestra instruments. There are the percussionists.

“They [the percussionists] are yet another musical family,” said Adele Valovich, the current sophomore and symphonic orchestra conductor. “[They] add a lot of timbre and color to the orchestra. They keep us together.”

Valovich thinks that percussionists have been a part of the Staples Orchestra since the orchestra program started 72 years ago.

Not only are the percussionists a part of the Staples full orchestra, they are also a part of the Staples band. The percussionists in the full orchestra traditionally spend two days a week in full band and two days a week in full orchestra. There are percussionists in the freshman, sophomore, and symphonic orchestras. In the sophomore orchestra, there are three percussionists, and in the symphonic orchestra there are four percussionists.

Although one might think only the orchestra instruments do all the work, the percussionists have to work hard too. Three or four guys play seven or eight different instruments and are assigned parts. They also have to move around a lot during the performance.

“We keep them busy all the time” Valovich said.

Chris Copeland ’14 plays timpany (a type of drum in the percussion family), marimba, bells, cymbals, triangle, and axillary drum for the full orchestra. Copeland started playing percussion instruments at a young age.

“I’ve played drums since I was like seven or eight,” Copeland said. “So I’ve played in middle school and I was in the orchestra there.”
Kirk Melhuish ’14 and Ian Hubbell ’14, percussionists in the full orchestra, like the different styles of music between the band and the orchestra, and that was one reason why Melhuish decided to join the full orchestra.

“Orchestra is more classical and band is more marching” Melhuish said.

Copeland agreed, saying “I mean, I kind of like both styles of music. If I get to play drums during the day,  [I] won’t pass it up.”

While in past Candlelight Concerts the bells were used to accompany the pieces, they won’t be this year. Instead, the triangles were used during the concert.

Over the weekend, the full orchestra played the traditional “Hallelujah” chorus and “Sing We Noel” for the Candlelight Concert. In addition, they did two movements of “Swan Lake” and opened with a Bach chorale.

While the main attraction at school concerts are the orchestra, with all the hard work the percussionists have put in, be sure to listen for them at the next concert.