What You Lookin’ At? A Dazzling Performance

LHS Percussion Ensemble plays for the community.
Led by Director Bruce Gerken, the LHS Percussion Ensemble performs for the community.
Led by Director Bruce Gerken, the LHS Percussion Ensemble performs for the community.

The Lancaster High School Percussion Ensemble performed on stage recently playing selections from classic groups such as Styx, Yes, and more.  Directed by Assistant Band Director, Bruce Gerken, the ensemble played under a spectacular light show, featured a drum solo, and included using a trash can and lid as instruments.  Gerken described the level of focus the student musicians must have.

“They need to have proper preparations, especially before performances.  They also need to have acute focus during performances, watch the conductor, adept musical background and substance that is exhibited in a performance, deep musical skills regarding the various variants that they may encounter in a performance and the confidence to pull off what they are intending to do,” he said.

Lancaster resident Anna Tobin.

To prepare for their weekend performances, the students provided a preview for the Lancaster Rotary Club. Lancaster resident Anna Tobin said she was very impressed with the Percussion Ensemble’s abilities.

“They are exposed to wonderful culture and teamwork under the direction of their instructor.  I’m blown away with their talent.  This will stick with them for the rest of their lives,” she said. 

Lancaster resident Frank Smith.

Another Lancaster resident, Frank Smith agreed with Tobin and praised their conductor.

“Gerken is amazing with the talent that he can bring out of these students,” said Smith.

The Percussion Ensemble members said that playing in front of the community does present some challenges. 

LHS senior Nate Betts.

“A challenge I faced during the concert was keeping extreme mental focus – some of the songs I had to memorize for the performance, which meant I constantly had to remember what to play.  Another challenge was adjusting to performing for a large crowd of people. Mentally, performing for an audience is a huge shift compared to day to day rehearsal,” said LHS senior Nate Betts, who played a drum solo in the performance.

“Playing in front of so many people sometimes makes me nervous and I start thinking about other things that aren’t the music. That’s when I start to make the most mistakes. Even if I know the music well, a lack of focus can cause my timing to be off or cause me to miss notes because I’m not completely honed in on what I’m doing,” said LHS sophomore Lyle Carpenter.

LHS sophomore Lyle Carpenter.

The student performers may play a variety of instruments and they also have favorite musical numbers that they enjoy performing on stage.

“My favorite instrument to play was the Xylophone, because its sound can easily cut through the whole ensemble. It’s very articulate and doesn’t have a long lasting ring, so it’s great for playing fast songs and sixteenth notes, which are challenging, but also really fun to play. Also, most of my favorite songs to play were songs where I had xylophone parts, so that made it even more enjoyable to play,” said Carpenter.

“My favorite songs to perform were “Punch List” and “Born to be my Baby.” “Punch List” was just a whole lot of fun playing unconventional instruments and was a nice break from playing mallet instruments so much. It was also easier to express my personality through that song, as it gave me more room to be creative. I was able to be more lively and energetic, and I even got to yell a little bit, which I believe the crowd loved. “Born to be my Baby” was also great because it felt like the perfect encore and a great high note to end the concert on. The song itself is super energetic and leaves a lasting impact on me everytime I play it,” said Carpenter.

LHS freshman Matthew Browning.

LHS freshman Matthew Browning said that his favorite song to play during the performance was “Changes.”

“It’s the one with the long drum solo. I played mainly just a bunch of different accessories in the back but my favorite [instrument] to play is specifically conga drums and cowbell, it’s fun to crank on them and play loudly,” he said.

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