Percussion Clinic in Sunny Florida

Kevin Lucas • GoodVibesJuly 2023 • July 16, 2023

Last February I was asked to do a clinic and perform a concert for University of Central Florida (UCF) students in Orlando. It was a very interesting and surprising experience in very pleasant ways.

Jeff Moore is the Dean of Fine Arts at UCF, and he also heads the percussion program. He does a wonderful job with all the departments under him, and he has found creative ways to integrate the different schools of art, one of which was a computer lab he established as a way for the different schools to collaborate. If a theater production needed music or if a painting student needed audio inspiration, these are just examples of how different facets of the art schools can collaborate. 

Upon arriving at UCF, I was greeted by a group of students who were assigned to help me get all the equipment together for the concert. They had a large general percussion storage room that was probably the most organized room I have ever witnessed. Students knew exactly where to find what they were looking for so time can be used efficiently. There were arrays of tuned gongs, roto toms, and all the stands and parts for every percussion instrument one could imagine. The assistance and positive attitude of the students was amazing.

I noticed on the wall of the percussion storage room all of the senior and graduate recital programs from years past. They were framed and created a legacy for each student. It was also a great reference for other students who wanted to see which works were performed in the past as they plan their own recital. I thought it was a wonderful way to inspire students. 

Moore took me on a tour of the percussion practice rooms after all my equipment was set up. He took me to the timpani room. There were three sets of concert timpani with differing pedal systems. The reason Jeff has all three is so students can be prepared and trained on all three types so when they enter the real world, they will have had experience on all of them. 

The next room was the keyboard percussion area. There were multiple five octave marimbas from different manufacturers as well as different models of vibraphones. This allowed the students to have experience with many different instruments. The quality and amount of keyboard instruments was impressive.

Jeff took me to the drum set room, which had multiple drum sets from different companies as well as differing bass drum pedals. This is so the students can have experience playing on different types of drum kits. 

One of the most impressive aspects of the tour happened after the drum set room. I was taken into another practice room where there appeared to be a music stand. It was oddly shaped for a stand. Then he flipped a switch and it lit up like a computer. The student could then tell the “music stand” what solo piece they wanted to play, with thousands of works inside the computer “music stand,” all bought and paid for to support the composers. 

As I witnessed different percussion rooms for every area of percussion, including Latin percussion with all kinds of instruments, congas, etc., I remember thinking “I wish I had all of this when I was in college.” It was amazing and allows for a wonderful education. 

The campus itself was beautiful with palm trees everywhere. We passed a coffee shop that was set up “resort style” for the students, with palm trees and great recreation areas. There were also high-quality restaurants built into the student housing. These restaurants had contracts with the university and provided a great alternative to “dorm food.”

It’s no wonder UCF has over 70 thousand students! And it’s no wonder so many great musicians have recently been graduating from the school and getting wonderful gigs in the professional world and top military performance positions. 

In my opinion, UCF Orlando is one of the most happening music schools in the nation right now. It is a very well-kept secret because you hear the “names” of other schools that attract students, but UCF has the “quality” of facilities, equipment, and education that can’t be beat.  It is growing and increasing in quality so fast they are creating a name and brand of their own. And in my humble opinion, a student would be hard pressed to find a better percussion school in the nation, and the school is still very affordable compared to most major universities.

And by the way, my concert went incredibly well and the large number of percussion studio students were so supportive. I was able to run my backing tracks through a sound system built into the clinic room, with computer controls and a mixing computer panel. I can’t properly express how impressed I was with the UCF Orlando School of Music. You will have to visit to find out!

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