April 6, 2022

MSM Percussion Ensemble concert on April 10 at 7:30 PM: Interview with director Kyle Ritenauer (BM ’11, MM ’15)

The MSM Percussion Ensemble performs in Neidorff-Karpati Hall on Sunday, April 10, at 7:30 PM. The performance is open to the public. Director and MSM alumnus Kyle Ritenauer (BM ’11, MM ’15) talks about what will make this a special performance.

APR 10 | SUN
7:30 PM

MSM Percussion Ensemble

Kyle Ritenauer (BM 11, MM ’15), Director

Featuring works by Edgar VarèseJohn CageQuinn MasonAndy Akiho (MM ’09),  Andy Akiho , Mario DavidovskyReiko Fueting, and Elliott Carter

Neidorff-Karpati Hall

MSM: Tell us about the upcoming concert on April 10 at 7:30 PM in Neidorff-Karpati Hall.

Kyle: This is a very exciting concert for the Manhattan School of Music Percussion Ensemble. This concert will feature pieces from the “standard repertoire” of the percussion world, such as Edgard Varèse’s Ionisation, and Elliot Carter’s Tintinnabulation, while also putting on display the rich history of our ensemble through the music of John Cage, Andy Akiho, David Noon, and Reiko Fueting.

Can you tell us about the role John Cage played with the MSM Percussion Ensemble?

Kyle: Back when the ensemble was under the directorship of Claire Heldrich, they developed a close relationship with John Cage, one of the 20th century’s most prominent composers. There are many stories of John Cage staring out the window facing uptown (a view now obstructed by the beautiful MSM dorms) while the ensemble had their weekly rehearsals. Cage was often silent in contemplation throughout the entirety of rehearsal, perhaps not unsurprising from the composer of 4’33”. John donated his personal drums to MSM, and we are actually using them in our performance of his Third Construction for percussion quartet.

A video celebrating 60 years of the MSM Percussion Ensemble

A composition by MSM alumnus Andy Akiho (MM ’09) is featured in the concert. What can you tell us about it?

Kyle: Another exciting moment in our upcoming performance is a work by GRAMMY-nominated composer and MSM alum Andy Akiho [MM ’09]. We’ll be performing a movement from his Seven Pillars, which earned him the nomination. There is no voice in today’s musical landscape more individual than Andy’s and he, like Cage did decades ago, continues to push our field forward with fresh ideas and new sounds. A personal connection of mine is that I performed the very first piece Andy ever wrote during MSM’s first TACTUS Concert in 2007. He is one of many superstars that have come out of the MSM Percussion Department and MSM’s Contemporary Performance Program.

Works by Reiko Fueting and David Noon, current and former MSM faculty members, respectively, will also be featured. Can you tell us about those compositions?

Kyle: I am very excited to present music by two composers who have served at MSM for decades and continue to be impactful mentors in my life. That is Reiko Fueting and David Noon. Mo(nu)ment 129 by Reiko Fueting is written for percussion sextet and was commissioned by Jeffrey Milarsky, Claire Heldrich, and the MSM Percussion Ensemble years ago. We will be premiering the revised version of this subtle and colorful work. Swept Away and Hit the Deck by David Noon are two works that will highlight the personalities of our students through the theatrical imagination of David Noon. These pieces have stretched the imagination of our students to not only execute at a high level, but also produce a theatrical performance through a self-created plot around the music. David Noon worked at Manhattan School of Music for 30 years in numerous roles and must be one of the most impactful people in the school’s history.

A composition by MSM alumnus Andy Akiho (MM '09) is featured in the concert

Why should people come to see this concert?

Kyle: All in all, this concert contains music of all kinds, from the detailed and exacting score of Elliot Carter to the fresh new sounds of Akiho, and even a theatrical production. We hope that you will join us and enjoy all of the wonderful work that our world-class students have put into this very demanding program!

As an alumnus of the Percussion program, how does it feel to be conducting and directing the ensemble?

Kyle: It is pretty surreal to be back with the MSM Percussion Ensemble. This ensemble really shaped me in many ways as a musician and was a place where I developed the urge to conduct. Jeff Milarsky was its director when I was a student here. He is one of the best conductors in our industry, and I have no idea where I’d be without the experience working under him every week. Having conducted mainly orchestras over the past decade in dozens of places, Bossi-Comelli Studio and the Percussion Department at MSM truly feels like home.

“Every student in this program strives to be better every day, and they rise to every challenge you put in front of them. It’s a truly special group of people, and I learn from them every time I interact with them.”

Director of the MSM Percussion Ensemble

What do you love most about MSM and the Percussion program?

Kyle: I love the dedication of the students. Every student in this program strives to be better every day, and they rise to every challenge you put in front of them. It’s a truly special group of people, and I learn from them every time I interact with them. This is all led by one of the best teaching faculty in the percussion world. Chris Lamb, She-e Wu, Duncan Patton, and Kyle Zerna work closely together and care deeply about the individual development of each student. They make this department one of best places in the world to develop as a musician.

Any advice for someone applying to MSM for percussion or conducting?

Kyle: Attitude is everything. Just attack every day and every challenge with a positive attitude, and work as hard as is manageable for you. For me, I knew what I wanted as a musician, and I received my fair share of rejection letters before finally achieving certain goals. Don’t let those rejections distract you from your goals. Keep at it!

MSM Percussion Ensemble in 2019