Sunday, November 1, 2009

Meet the Concord Band Percussion Section

138 Years of Combined Service...and Counting

The Concord Band percussion section— and the percussion sections of large instrumental ensembles of all kinds—may be described in terms of extremes. At one time or another, percussionists are responsible for gathering hundreds of different combinations of pitched and unpitched instruments and beaters. As most drummers will tell you, the most difficult problem they usually face is not in playing their parts, but in setting up and moving between their instruments as quickly as necessary when the section has a limited number of players.
(l to r): Dan Diamond (snare drum), Ken Troup (mallets),
Neil Tischler (drum set, tympani), Buck Grace (bass drum, cymbals),
Steve Polit (tympani, mallets).

The Concord Band’s five percussionists, with tenures of 39, 38, 37, 14 and 10 years, rank 3rd, 4th and 5th longest among all active Band members. They are very well educated—with two doctorates and a handful of other advanced degrees among them. Though they may wish it were otherwise, they are also probably the oldest section of the Band.

Dan Diamond joined the Band in January, 1970, a few months after completing his PhD at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Dan is primarily self-taught as a percussionist, but he was taught musicianship and to play the cymbals by Warren Myers, who played in the Boston Pops in the 1950’s. He was the Mass. All-State Orchestra cymbal player twice. As an undergraduate, also at MIT, Dan was a member of the MIT Symphony under John Corley. He has been a professional manager in both the high-tech (NEC, Harvard Software, TMR Networks) and art-reproduction (Facsimilies, Ltd.) worlds and a consultant.

Ken Troup, who also sings in choruses, joined his flutist wife, Brenda, in the Band in 1971. After obtaining engineering degrees from Purdue and Northeastern and serving in the Air Force, Ken joined the percussion section because the Band needed a bass drummer. He applied his piano training to the mallet instruments, which he took over when the late Carl Getz retired from the band in 1995. During his time in the band, Ken has had dual careers in freight transportation analysis for the Federal government at the DOT Volpe Center and as a consultant, and executive leadership in town government primarily as a selectman for 26 years in Bolton.

Neil Tischler, who joined the Band in 1972, received his early percussion instruction through the public school system of Cairo, New York, 35 miles south of Albany, where he developed a particular interest in tympani. He never studied privately, having, for the most part, been selftaught. Neil has also been the set drummer in a Klezmer band. He earned degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics from Union College and Penn State and has been a self-employed consultant for more than 30 years in the mechanical design and packaging of new products. Neil’s hands-on mechanical skills have also been very useful in percussion instrument repair and in the design and manufacturing of the Band’s rolling crash cymbal stand.

Lloyd F. (Buck) Grace, who joined the Band in 1995, was the second member of percussion section who had military service, whose wife, June, was a Band flutist and who came in to play bass drum, having previously played piano, but not percussion instruments. Through substantial on-the-job training, he mastered the crash cymbals and many accessory instruments. Buck was trained as a chemical engineer at Carnegie Tech, and spent his career as a manager in steel, copper and chemicals, before retiring 15 years ago.

Steve Polit, who joined the Band in January, 1999, has had the best percussion training of the section, having studied with Vic Firth, long-time (now retired) timpanist of the Boston Symphony. He played in the Mass. All-State Band while in high school, and continued to play at Tufts and Stanford, where he earned a PhD in Math. After having been a Math professor, Steve entered the software arena, and is now with BBN Technologies. Before joining the Concord Band, he played in bands, orchestras and small ensembles, including those conducted by John Corley and Harry Ellis Dickson.