The programs of study for percussion majors are designed to develop performers with strong fundamental skills and sophisticated musicianship, who can apply these skills to any musical setting: orchestral, solo, chamber, commercial, or nontraditional. Students will achieve a high degree of professional competence and learn appropriate stylistic approaches to the literature of various historical periods.

Specific courses and degree sequence plans can be found in the Course Catalog.​


Students in the MSM Percussion Department study with the entire faculty, in a variety of settings. Weekly private lessons are taught by different teachers each week. Each student's plan for lessons is worked out at the beginning of the semester. Depending on the individual student's interest and needs, they may receive more or fewer lessons with a given faculty member that semester. The faculty discusses and communicates about each student and develops a lesson plan to keep track of their overall progress and development.

Lamb Seminar

As part of their private-lesson program, all students will participate in these seminars. These are small group lessons taught by Chris Lamb. Level I, Percussion Skills and Concepts, is for freshman, sophomores, and first-semester graduate students. Level II, Orchestral Repertoire Seminar, is for juniors, seniors, and grad students. Level I will focus on physical movement that allows the percussionist the freedom to continually absorb new techniques required for the growing number of percussion instruments. Emphasis on how technique affects tone production will be made, and speed and control will begin to be observed. In Level II, application of the fundamentals of technique, touch, and tone production will be made to specific orchestral repertoire for all instruments, always keeping in mind the musical directives of the composer. Both classes will include a packet of material designed to guide the student in practicing the topics and ideas presented in the classes.

Lab Class

This is a weekly class for the entire department. It is a full-spectrum approach to solo percussion repertoire, performance practices, and stylistic discussions, as well as orchestral repertoire sessions for percussion and timpani, Western and non-Western instrument workshops, and lecture/demonstrations by visiting artists and clinicians. Students are expected to perform regularly in the lab class, be it a master class, workshop, or solo performance setting.

Master Classes

Recent master classes by visiting artists have included:

  • Cyro Baptista (Brazilian)
  • Samir Chatterjee (Indian)
  • David Cossin (class of 1994, solo percussion)
  • Marc Damoulakis (class of 1999, Cleveland Orchestra)
  • Stefon Harris (class of 1995, vibraphone)
  • David Herbert (San Francisco Symphony)
  • Doug Howard (Dallas Symphony)
  • Momoko Kamiya (marimba)
  • Vadim Karpinos (class of 2000, Chicago Symphony)
  • Anton Mittermayr (Vienna Philharmonic)
  • Rolando Morales-Matos (Afro-Cuban)
  • Rainer Seegers (Berlin Philharmonic)
  • Mayumi Sekizawa (class of 1999, marimba)
  • Joe Tompkins (class of 1995, orchestral percussion)
  • Glen Velez (class of 1974, frame drums)
  • Nancy Zeltsman (marimba)

Percussion Ensemble

The Manhattan School of Music Percussion Ensemble, with Music Director Jeffrey Milarsky, was founded in 1957 by Paul Price. The ensemble is designed to help bridge the gap between school and professional life, with special emphasis on achieving advanced playing abilities, a high level of concentration and artistic satisfaction. The ensemble performs classic works of the Percussion Ensemble literature on a regular basis, as well as having a deep commitment to scores written solely for the ensemble. MSM’s Percussion Ensemble is known for its careful attention to detail surrounding the performance of percussion literature of the time. The ensemble holds a critical place in the wide-ranging ideology of the Percussion Department. Percussion students are required to take part in the ensemble’s concerts each year. Here is a list of some of the repertoire performed in recent seasons:

  • Pierre Boulez Improvisation sur Mallarmé I & II
  • Luciano Berio Circles
  • John Cage Third Construction
  • Elliott Carter Tintinnabulation
  • George Crumb Music for a Summer Evening
  • Gérard Grisey Tempus Ex Machina
  • David Lang the so-called laws of nature
  • Gyorgy Ligeti sippal, dobbal, nadihegeduvel
  • Steve Reich Six Marimbas
  • Kaija Saariaho Three Rivers
  • Toru Takemitsu Rain Tree
  • Joan Tower DNA
  • Rolf Wallin Stonewave
  • Charles Wuorinen Percussion Symphony (collaboration with Juilliard Percussion Ensemble)
  • Iannis Xenakis Persaphassa

Performance Opportunities

All students in the percussion department perform with Manhattan School of Music's orchestras. Placement is determined by auditions at the beginning of each semester. All students also perform with the Percussion Ensemble. In addition, there are opportunities to perform with the contemporary ensemble Tactus, the jazz department’s ensembles (including the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra), mixed chamber ensembles, solo recitals, composers’ concerts, and various ad hoc orchestras and other ensembles.


Here is a list of some of our percussion department graduates and their current musical activities:

  • Greg Beyer - Assistant Professor, Northern Illinois University; Due East ensemble; Arcomusical project
  • David Cossin - Bang on a Can All-Stars, Talujon Percussion Quartet, Tan Dun, Steve Reich, Yo-Yo Ma, Sting
  • Marc Damoulakis - Principal Percussion, Cleveland Orchestra; Faculty, DePaul University
  • Matthew Decker - Assistant Principal Percussion, North Carolina Symphony
  • Brian Doherty - They Might Be Giants; The Silos; recording session drummer
  • Trey Files - Ethos Percussion Group; 2nd Species; Broadway - American Idiot, Spring Awakening, De La Guarda
  • Ben Fox - Percussion/Assistant Timpani, Copenhagen Philharmonic
  • Richard Graber - Percussion, Nashville Symphony
  • Vern Griffiths - Principal Percussion, Vancouver Symphony; Lecturer, University of British Columbia
  • Stefon Harris - Grammy nominated jazz vibraphonist, composer and bandleader
  • Eric Hopkins - Associate Principal Timpani/Percussion, Utah Symphony, Utah Opera
  • Gabriela Jimenez - Timpani/Principal Percussion, Mexico City Philharmonic; faculty, National School of Music, Mexico City
  • Vadim Karpinos - Percussion, Assistant Timpani, Chicago Symphony; Faculty, Roosevelt University
  • Amir Lavie - Principal Percussion, Israel Opera Orchestra
  • Aaron McDonald - Timpani, Vancouver Symphony
  • Michael Metzger - Percussion, U.S. Marine Band, "The President's Own"
  • Jason Niehoff - Percussion, U.S. Navy Band, Washington, D.C.
  • Matt Prendergast - Principal Percussion, Malaysian Philharmonic
  • Mauro Refosco - David Byrne; Thom Yorke; Forro in the Dark
  • Joe Tompkins - NY freelance - NY Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, Orchestra of St. Luke's, New Jersey Symphony, Broadway, recordings; composer
  • Wilson Torres - Broadway - In the Heights, Lion King, The Wiz, Wicked
  • Shaun Trubiano - Principal Percussion, Sydney Opera, Australia
  • Glen Velez - Frame drum soloist; Grammy award winner; Steve Reich; Tan Dun; Paul Winter; Pat Matheny; Suzanne Vega; David Darling
  • Kyle Zerna - Percussion, Assistant Timpani, New York Philharmonic

Other Departments

Percussionists in the Orchestral Performance Program
Percussionists in the Contemporary Performance Program
Percussionists in the Jazz Arts Program

Department Handbook

The Percussion Department Handbook includes information for current students on a variety of issues including Placement Auditions, Lesson Schedule, Seminars, Ensembles, Jazz Department, Recitals, Concerto Competition, Library Collection, Instrument Care, and Jury Requirements, etc.


General admission information

Percussion Audition procedures and repertoire


Christopher Lamb

Department Chair

Percussion Faculty

Christopher Lamb  (Percussion, Chair)
Erik Charlston  (Percussion)
Jeffrey Milarsky  (Music Director and Conductor of the MSM Percussion Ensemble, Percussion, Conductor)
Duncan Patton  (Percussion)
She-e Wu  (Marimba Consultant)
Kyle Zerna  (Percussion)