By Lara Becker
Within the seats of Mayo Concert Hall, student drummers awaited the instruction of snare drum master, author and composer Anthony J. Cirone. Cirone’s masterclass, titled “Playing What’s Not on the Page,” encouraged students to foster individuality in their playing.
Percussion Ensemble Director William Trigg hosted the class for his students on April 5 at 5 p.m., which was divided into two sections — lecture and coaching.
The class was based off Cirone’s own book of arrangements, “Portraits in Rhythm: 50 Studies for Snare Drum,” which percussion students have been studying for many years at the College.
From the very start of the lecture, Cirone made it clear that a piece of music is merely a blueprint that is open for interpretation by individual musicians. He said that conductors themselves interpret by often refusing to follow everything written on a page, giving pieces a distinct twist.
“Before we play what’s not on the page, we have to play what’s on the page,” he said. Cirone stressed the importance of having a foundation of knowledge for one’s instrument before musicianship can be fully developed or liberties can be taken.
This knowledge, according to Cirone, takes form in rhythms, dynamics and body language.
Once the basis of rhythms are established, Cirone believes the next best element to understand are dynamic markings. In sheet music, dynamics are written in Italian, and understanding not just the English meaning, but also how to interpret the dynamic for oneself, is crucial to Cirone.
This mastery can be shown through a musician’s emphasis on certain aspects of a piece. In one of his pieces in “Portraits in Rhythm,” Cirone asked philosophically, “to articulate the tie or to not articulate the tie, that is the question.”
According to Cirone, body language is another integral way to workshop a performance. He noted how, especially in a percussion instrument, the way the drummer is standing or sitting can affect the sound. Cirone discouraged stiffness in drummers by demonstrating how differently sound is produced once loosened up. The musician advocated for a casual performance demeanor, noting that “this is not drum corps.”
Throughout the coaching section of the master class, students took the stage one by one to play a song from “Portraits in Rhythm” and receive Cirone’s feedback.
First up was Buddy Fox, a junior music performance and chemistry double major. After his performance, Fox received rousing applause and Cirone asked that he test out certain parts of the piece by playing them as quietly as he could.
“I have been studying his material for the better part of two years, so I definitely hold what he says with a level of respect that you don’t get that from a lot of masterclasses,” Fox said.
Fox shared that he felt accomplished leaving an impression on Cirone and was honored to have the chance to play for him in the first place.
“You see this guy step onto the stage and challenge a lot of what the professionals say,” he said. “It’s very rewarding when he’s able to critique the way you play.”
Aiden Newberger, a freshman at Hillsborough High School, was invited by Trigg to join the masterclass and play for Cirone during the coaching session.
“He told me about a week and a half ago and I’ve been preparing my piece ever since,” he said. “I’ve been practicing with his book for around three months. It was great. It was really inspiring.”
Students left the Concert Hall feeling a refreshed sense of musicianship, as Cirone urged them to dive into their artistic individuality.