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DSO/SMU Percussion Premiere Concert Will Go Up Saturday Night

SMU percussion instructors in the spotlight as D'Drum and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra premiere Stewart Copeland's Gamelan D'Drum

Chris Calloway (B.A. '11 - Music)
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra commissioned Stewart Copeland, drummer and founder of renowned rock group The Police, to compose a work for percussion group D’Drum and the DSO that will premiere this weekend at the Meyerson Symphony Center. SMU instructors Doug Howard, Jamal Mohamed, Ed Smith, and John Bryant are four of the five members of D’Drum who will be performing Copeland’s Gamelan D’Drum, a composition for world percussion and orchestra, on February 5.

Although most people know Stewart Copeland, a 2003 inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for his work with The Police, he has also composed operas, ballets, chamber music pieces, and some of the film world’s most innovative and groundbreaking contemporary scores. His Gamelan D’Drum is a three-movement, 35-minute composition that is unique in the way it combines gamelan instruments with the classical instruments of the Dallas Symphony.

Gamelan instruments originate from Indonesia, in particular the island of Bali, and include an assortment of percussion instruments like metallophones, xylophones, drums and gongs. These instruments are almost always tuned to each other in a special manner originating from Indonesia. Since Copeland’s composition is written for gamelan, African, and Middle Eastern instruments to perform with the DSO, the gamelan instruments for this concert have been specially tuned to play with a Western orchestra. Indeed, this pairing of the gamelan ensemble with a Western symphony orchestra will be the first time such a collaboration has ever happened.

The ensemble, D’Drum, is a five-member percussion group that has been performing and playing together for the last 12 years. Originally getting together on Monday nights to play world percussion instruments, the group has gone on to record for the National Geographic film Lions of Darkness, in addition to the award-winning PBS children’s show Wishbone. As in their live performances, their recordings feature music derived from traditional cultures of Bali, Africa, Persia, and other regions blended with the influences of Western classical and jazz forms.

The four members of D’Drum who are also involved with SMU have distinct music backgrounds.

Doug Howard has been principal percussionist for the DSO for the last 35 years. He is also professor of percussion at SMU and teaches his students the technique and repertoire for becoming a symphonic percussionist.

Jamal Mohamed, instructor and director of the World Music Ensemble at SMU, has performed around the world in locations like Egypt, Hong Kong, Korea and Indonesia. Notable artists he has worked with over the years include Sting, fiddler Mark O’Connor and jazz percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo.

An adjunct lecturer of drum-set studies at SMU, John Bryant works in composing, music producing and performing. As a composer, his music has been featured in Emmy Award- winning documentaries, and the Dallas Black Dance Theatre has commissioned him to write three musical scores for a few of their dance works. As a performer, he has toured with Ray Charles and the Paul Winter Consort.

Ed Smith has performed with the likes of John Cage and Johnny Mathis as a jazz vibraphonist and percussionist. At SMU, he provides live music for the dance department for their training classes.

So what should one expect before hearing this new and exciting premiere? Ed Smith says in an article from Percussive Arts Society Magazine, written by Lauren Vogel Weiss, that the performance “will be like ingesting a very exotic meal. There are so many influences and ingredients mixed into this orchestral salad: Stewart Copeland’s rockin’ and mischievous ways, our studious and rule-breaking demeanor with our family of world instruments, and the most luxurious source for sound in the DSO’s Meyerson Symphony Center.”

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