What Is a Percussion Festival?

Judith Smith Sullivan

A percussion festival is an event, much like a seminar, in which musicians gather to perform, attend workshops and concerts, and meet other percussionists. They are usually three to seven days long, and sponsored by an educational institution, instrument manufacturer, or music publishing house. The host of a percussion festival is usually a university or professional music organization.

The rubberboard, or frottoir, is a type of percussion instrument used in zydeco music or festivals displaying various types of instruments.
The rubberboard, or frottoir, is a type of percussion instrument used in zydeco music or festivals displaying various types of instruments.

Some percussion festivals are geared towards professional performers, teachers, and university students. Others are family friendly and offer a variety of hands-on beginner percussion lessons and events. These types of festivals may also include dance and cultural activities.

In most cases, the festival centers on a keynote speaker or performer. This performer is typically quite famous, especially in the field of music and percussion. As an expert in his field, he may give one or multiple concerts, conduct master classes, and attend social events. In some cases, he will also speak on topics pertaining to his field.

Usually there are several other well known musicians who are also speakers and performers at a percussion festival. The speakers typically have a certain field of performance or musical style in which they are the expert. Attendees can chose from an itinerary of seminars, workshops, and master classes based on their interest.

In many cases, the festival holds regional contests for percussion groups of middle school, high school, and college age performers. These groups are judged by experts and earn a rating. Typically, the reward for the highest performing student group is bragging rights and a certificate as well as a chance to perform at a final concert.

A percussion festival may also have a instrument and book fair event associated with it. Manufacturers and publishers send representatives with their products to advertise and sell them to the festival goers. Percussion instruments, accessories, music, and instructional books and videos are often purchased during these events. In some cases, companies and organizations are also looking to recruit individuals for employment or membership.

There are usually several social events during the course of the festival. These may be cocktail parties, dances, dinners, or themed parties. Not only are these events fun, they give participants a chance to chance to meet other individuals in the field of percussion performance. For many, this is an opportunity for career networking.

In the evenings, there are typically open jam sessions. During a jam session, anyone is welcome to play their instrument. Songs are suggested and performed, and often, musicians are given a chance to solo or improvise on their instrument.

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