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Rutgers University Percussionist Leads Day of Percussion at New Jersey Youth Symphony April 14

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NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ—Traveling by car and bus from Albany, Paterson, and New Brunswick, over 70 young percussionist from middle school to undergrad will convene at 570 Central Avenue in New Providence on Saturday, April 14 for a Day of Percussion. Led by Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Art’s Head of Percussion, Joseph Tompkins, students from New Providence and surrounding towns have the unique opportunity to not only work with Tompkins but also collaborate with six percussion ensembles, including the 15-member Rutgers Percussion Ensemble.

Tompkins said, “The 2018 Day of Percussion will be a chance for players of all ages to get together and perform, learn from one another, and have a great time making music. It’s always a good way to meet new people and compare ideas.”

"I got involved in the Day of Percussion through Dr. Mesia Austin, a great percussionist who is the Interim Director of Percussion at the New Jersey Youth Symphony and a Rutgers graduate," he said.

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"The Rutgers Percussion Ensemble will perform a piece for seven players that I wrote called Boardgames. It’s a fun show piece. Boardgames was written in 1999 for a concert in the remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We needed a piece that could be “assembled” on site (anywhere you find a hardware store). It was originally a trio, but can be expanded to any size depending on the ensemble."

Students in grades 6-12 are invited to attend the collaborative festival of performances, clinics, master classes, and small ensemble sessions for percussionists of all levels. Playing over 40 different percussion instruments from marimba and timpani to the güiro, a Latin American percussion instrument resembling of a hollow gourd, the free event takes place on Saturday, April 14 from 12 to 5 p.m. at 570 Central Avenue in New Providence. Complete schedule and sign up for Day of Percussion is available online at www.NJYS.org. For more information, call 908-771-5544.

Clinicians include Joseph Tompkins, Head of Percussion at Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts; Richard Albagli, Principal Percussionist of the Albany Symphony Orchestra; John Antonio, Empire State Youth Orchestra; Genoveffa Vitali, Empire State Youth Orchestra; and Dr. Mesia Austin, Interim Director of Percussion and Conductor of the Percussion Ensemble at the New Jersey Youth Symphony. Participating ensembles include Empire State Youth Orchestra (ESYO) Youth Percussion Orchestra, ESYO Repertory Percussion Ensemble, ESYO Concertino Percussion, New Jersey Youth Symphony Percussion Ensemble, Rutgers Percussion Ensemble, and students from the Paterson Music Project.

Percussionist Joseph Tompkins has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Opera and Ballet Orchestras, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. On Broadway he has played in productions of The King and I, Swan Lake, Oklahoma!, The Lion King, The Producers, Spamalot, The Light in the Piazza, Tarzan, Guys and Dolls, and In the Heights. Tompkins has a performed on film soundtracks for The Manchurian Candidate, The Last Holiday, Failure to Launch, and Casanova. For seven years he was a member of the percussion trio Timetable, a group committed to commissioning and performing new works for percussion. He is the head of the percussion program at Rutgers University and a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School.

A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Richard Albagli is principal percussionist of the Albany Symphony Orchestra and has performed throughout the USA and Europe. He is a member of the music faculty at SUNY-Albany and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is also Musical Director of the Empire State Youth Percussion Ensemble, which has performed under his direction since 1984 to national acclaim.  He has composed, arranged, and performed more than forty works for ensemble and solo percussion. He holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and his background in physics and music has been the cornerstone of dozens of projects linking the arts and sciences.

Until his retirement in June 2004, John Antonio taught music in the Albany City School District and was the program coordinator of the district’s summer music program.  As a teacher he has been responsible for starting many of the area’s top percussion players including Matthew Ward and Grammy nominee Stefon Harris.  Antonio has been a guest conductor at numerous Area All-District music festivals.  He is currently the co-conductor of the Empire State Repertory Percussion Ensemble, a position he has held since 1995.  He also coaches the percussion sections of ESYO Repertory Orchestra and ESYO Youth Orchestra. Antonio received his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Music Education from The College of Saint Rose.

Genoveffa Vitale has conducted the Empire State Youth Orchestra Concertino Percussion since 2010.  She has a private percussion studio and teaches elementary band, high school percussion lessons, and percussion ensemble in the Bethlehem Central School District. Vitale worked with the Jordan-Elbridge Marching Band and Indoor Drum Lines from 2000-2005 and the Mohonasen Marching Band from 2007-2009.  She has given four mallet marimba clinics at SUNY OCC and SUNY Potsdam.  She holds degrees from Onondaga Community College (A.A.S), SUNY Potsdam, Crane School of Music (B.M.E.), and Walden University (M.S.). While at Crane, Vitale won the Crane Concerto Competition, conducted and performed in the two percussion ensembles, and obtained a Performance Certificate in percussion.

Dr. Mesia Austin, Interim Director of Percussion and Conductor of the Percussion Ensemble at the New Jersey Youth Symphony, is an adjunct professor of percussion at Rutgers University from which she received her Doctor of Musical Arts in 2016. She holds a Master of Music from Georgia State University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Kennesaw State University. As an orchestral percussionist, Dr. Austin has performed with the Plainfield Symphony, Garden State Philharmonic, and Princeton Symphony Orchestra. She founded Ozone Percussion Theater, a competitive percussion ensemble that performed in the Winter Guard International competition circuit. Created to offer fundamental marching percussion skills to students in rural Georgia, it grew into an award-winning novice ensemble. In addition to her duties as Director of Percussion, Dr. Austin is the Percussion Teacher for the Paterson Music Project.

As part of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, the New Jersey Youth Symphony has a rich history of fostering musical talent for nearly 40 years. Each of its 15 ensembles offers participants a different, yet fully rounded experience. The family of orchestras serves students from 3rd to 12th grades. NJYS is committed to providing the finest ensemble musical training led by our staff of experienced and renowned conductors, and is known for its high standard of excellence throughout the United States and internationally.

The Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts’ mission is to provide the highest quality performing arts education to a wide range of students in a supportive and inclusive environment, where striving for personal excellence inspires and connects those we teach to the communities we serve.

Wharton is New Jersey’s largest independent non-profit community performing arts education center serving over 1,400 students through a range of classes and ensembles including the 15 ensembles of the New Jersey Youth Symphony which serve 500 students in grades 3 - 12. Beginning with Early Childhood music classes for infants and toddlers, WIPA offers private lessons, group classes and ensembles for all ages and all abilities. We believe in the positive and unifying influence of music and the performing arts and believe that arts education should be accessible to all people regardless of their ability to pay. We teach all instruments and voice and have a robust musical theatre program.

The Paterson Music Project is Wharton’s El Sistema-inspired program serving five schools in Paterson, NJ. Students receive 6 hours of intensive music instruction each week with the goal of creating social change through the ambitious pursuit of musical excellence.

Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts is located in Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Paterson, NJ and reaches students from 13 counties. All of WIPA’s extraordinary faculty members and conductors hold degrees in their teaching specialty and have been vetted and trained to enable our students to achieve their personal best.

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