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. Each student is assigned one of the co-chairs as an advisor, who works with them to develop their lesson plan, and 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 sessions 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, taught by all of the faculty. It is a full-spectrum approach to percussion performance and practice through sectionals, orchestral repertoire sessions for percussion and timpani, Western and non- Western instrument workshops, and lecture/demonstrations by visiting artists. Instrument maintenance as well as stick construction and mallet wrapping will also be discussed. Students are expected to perform regularly in class either in master classes, workshops, or solo performance settings.

A number of the lab classes are devoted to the Marimba Project. These are performance-oriented classes led by She-e Wu, where students have the opportunity to play solo and small ensemble repertoire for their peers, culminating in a spring concert in which all students perform.

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)
  • Glen Velez (class of 1974, frame drums)
  • Nancy Zeltsman (marimba)

Percussion Ensemble

The acclaimed Manhattan Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of Jeffrey Milarsky, typically presents two major programs each year, as well as occasional additional performances. The group performs the most ambitious repertoire in the genre, drawn from both "classics" and contemporary works, and in a wide range of styles. The Ensemble also commissions and premieres new works by emerging composers. Many smaller pieces are done without a conductor. Here is a list of some of the repertoire performed in recent seasons:

  • Pierre Boulez Improvisation sur Mallarme I & II
  • Luciano Berio Circles
  • John Cage Third Construction
  • Elliott Carter Tintinnabulation
  • George Crumb Music for a Summer Evening
  • Gerard 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 the Manhattan School orchestras. Placement is determined by auditions at the beginning of each semester. All students also perform with the Manhattan 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 - Percussion, Cleveland Orchestra; Faculty, DePaul University
  • 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
  • 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"
  • 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. Lukes, New Jersey Symphony, Broadway, recordings; composer
  • Wilson Torres - Broadway - In the Heights, Lion King, The Wiz, Wicked
  • 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


Erik Charlston

Department Co-Chair

Duncan Patton

Department Co-Chair

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