The University of Tennessee Percussion Ensemble, directed by Andrew Bliss, is comprised of undergraduate and graduate students and regularly performs on campus and around Knoxville. The 2015-16 performance season featured the ensemble in San Antonio, Texas at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC 2015) performing the New Literature Showcase Concert; in Tampa, Florida as guest artists at the McCormick Marimba Festival; and appearing at the 2016 Big Ears Festival performing John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit at Ijams Nature Center. The UTPE also stays active in the state by regularly attending and performing at the annual Tennessee Day of Percussion, held in a different region of the state each year.
In 2016-17, UTPE will again appear at the Big Ears Festival, performing alongside composer Michael Pisaro on his evening-length work A wave and waves for 100 musicians. The ensemble will also work closely with composer Jennifer Higdon on her recently composed keyboard 12tet Like Clockwork and will collaborate internally to perform Steve Reich’s monumental work Drumming on UT’s campus.
Regularly collaborating with composers, the group has premiered works by Mark Applebaum, Evan Chapman, Elliot Cole, David Crowell, David Hollinden, and Alejandro Viñao. The ensemble is pleased to have performed alongside many guest artists as well, including Evaristo Aguilar, Anders Astrand, Michael Burritt, Robert Chappell, Kris Keeton, Brian Mason, Marc Mellits, and Andy Smith.
Throughout the year, the University of Tennessee Percussion Ensemble also performs significant percussive styles from around the globe, including music from Brazil, India, West Africa, Cuba, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Utilizing both performance and cultural research as a means to better understand the music presented, the UTPE offers their “World Rhythms” outreach program each season to thousands of Knoxville grade school students, exposing them to the history and culture of these percussive styles. This season, the ensemble will be collaborating with composer/pannist Kendall Williams on his recent award-winning calypso Scene.