Have you ever played in a major performance venue? Have you shared a stage with musicians of a caliber way beyond your own? If you have, you know that when an aspiring musician is given a chance like this, it can be both challenging and inspiring.

This week, a group of talented fifth grade percussionists will be given such a chance.

It all started a few years ago when John Beck, professor of percussion at Eastman and director of the Eastman’s Percussion Ensemble, gave a workshop/clinic for Dina Alexander’s percussion students at the Buckman Heights Elementary School. He was so impressed with the playing level of the fifth grade students that he came up with the idea of inviting them to perform with Eastman’s Percussion Ensemble.

A few years later, this idea is coming to life. The Buckman Heights Percussion Ensemble, made up of Alexander’s current fifth grade students, will share the Eastman Theater stage with the Eastman Percussion Ensemble Tuesday.

The first half of the concert will feature the Eastman Percussion Ensemble playing works by Mikula, Alfieri and MacDonald ? the first and last of which are world premieres. The second half of the program will feature the Buckman Heights Percussion Ensemble playing standard tunes arranged for the group by Alexander. Both groups will join forces for the final piece, “Five by Five,” which was written especially for this occasion by Beck.

Patrick Lathrop, a 10-year-old percussionist from Buckman Heights, is excited to work with the Eastman students. “It was a bit embarrassing [at first] because they were so big and we were so small!” Lathrop said.

However, it didn’t take him long to feel comfortable with the older musicians. “They were so friendly and they helped us with the trouble spots,” he said.

“Their ability is growing to a new level [as a result of this],” said Alexander, who holds degrees from Eastman.

She was impressed with the way the two groups were interacting. “I looked over and one of the Eastman students was giving one of my students a high five,” she said.

Preparation of this concert has also been a learning experience for the Eastman students. “I was amazed at how much music they had in them at such a young age,” said sophomore Sean Connors, a member of Eastman’s Percussion Ensemble.

While the Eastman School has a very strong performance program, a great emphasis is also placed on outreach and education ? even for non-education majors. While this collaboration between the Eastman School of Music and Buckman Heights Elementary School is not part of any official outreach program, it reflects the spirit of reaching out into the community that pervades all aspects of what performers do.

“Some kids are big on sports, but I’m big on music,” said Lathrop, in regards to how starting percussion has changed his life ? a testament to the fact that a new generation of musicians is being born ? musicians we must all work to reach.

“This talented percussion ensemble of young students under the capable leadership of Dina Alexander is living proof of the talent that will become the musicians of the future,” Beck said.

This concert will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. in Eastman Theatre. Admission is free and open to the public.

Grabowski can be reached at jgrabowski@campustimes.org.

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