Amy Barber, until recently the Dean of the School of Music at DePauw University (where I teach), is both our percussion professor and the mastermind behind the Percussion Plus Project. Amy started this ensemble in the 1990s when she was living in Prague. It’s a unique percussion ensemble: everything they perform involves a non-percussion soloist.
Last night’s concert on campus featured works Amy has commissioned from James Beckel (principal trombone of the Indianapolis Symphony), Augusta Reed Thomas, and Carlos Carillo (rising young composer currently teaching at DePauw), as well as a work by George Crumb. The soloists were Velvet Brown, tuba, Paulette Herbich, mezzo-soprano, and Emilio Colon, cellist.
Amy’s greatest accomplishment in her time as Dean here was to create a much greater–and much needed–presence of new music in the school’s life. In addition to the Percussion Plus Project and her own recitals, Amy developed and still organizes the annual “Music of the 21st Century” festival here (which I’ve written about below).
I love percussion ensembles. And it was, well, just great to experience a concert knowing that most of the pieces would not exist except for the work of my colleague.
Which leads me to realize that while I have always been willing to play works by composers I know, I have not been particularly proactive in arranging to commission works. I’m just 47; there’s still time. Time to get started.