On the beaten path

MARSHALL – The Marshall High and Middle School student percussionists look forward to the “beats season” every year, and their enthusiasm will no doubt transfer to the audience.

“It’s the most fun part of year,” said Chris Allen, an eighth-grader.

The Marshall Beats percussion program will perform “Beats ’13: The Beaten Path” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Schwan Community Center for the Performing Arts at Marshall High School.

The evening will feature 60 student percussionists in a variety of large group, small ensemble and solo performances.

“It’s two hours of all percussion – different sizes and styles,” said Chad Przymus, MMS band director. “We’ll fill the entire stage with drum sets, mallet percussion – just a wide variety of music. With the addition of sounds and lights – run by Dan Smith – it’s more than just a recital or concert. It’s a production.”

Eighth-grader Mitchell Sueker said he enjoys the visual aspect of percussion.

“There are a lot of cool visual accents when everyone is drumming together,” he said.

Sueker said they use “light-up sticks to make a cool look.”

“There are endless possibilities,” said Allen. “Every year it’s different.”

And this year it’s more different than ever. For the first time, the Marshall Beats program will have guest artists. Wadaiko Tokara, taiko artists from Japan, will perform for 30 minutes.

Last year Przymus went to Japan to study taiko, a drumming style that uses the full body, he said.

“It’s very powerful,” he said. “It will be something many people have never seen before. They use the mind, body and spirit and there is an element of the martial arts.”

Wadaiko ensemble Tokara were Przymus’ teachers, and when he heard they were embarking on a world tour that would include Minneapolis, he wrote a grant for them to come to Marshall. Thanks to a Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council grant, the taiko artists are doing a workshop today at the middle school and will perform for the students in the afternoon.

Allen, along with fellow eighth-graders Sueker and Anna Jennings, know they were lucky to be in the percussion program this year when there are special guests and said it adds to their enjoyment of the whole program.

“It’s a fun experience,” said Jennings.