Hailed as "One of the most innovative and exciting percussion ensembles to emerge in the golden age of chamber music" for their immersive sound world, New York City-based Excelsis Percussion Quartet is Marcelina Suchocka (Poland), Aya Kaminaguchi (Japan), Britton-René Collins (United States), and Mariana Ramirez (Mexico). This international group of women with a multilingual combination of five languages join together to speak the universal language of rhythm, rooted in their belief that music possesses an ability to unite us all. Excelsis brings vibrancy into the percussion community through eclectic programming, innovative storytelling, and embracing their intersectional identities.
Excelsis made their debut at the PAS NYC Weekend of Percussion in 2014, playing with Lisa Pegher. Described as a "fiery new percussion quartet on the rise," Excelsis has twice been featured on the NPR show From The Top with Christopher O'Riley and appeared as a guest ensemble at the Zeltsman Marimba Festival in 2015. In 2016, Excelsis took the opportunity to curate a program featuring women composers for their performance in Sō Percussion's concert series "Brooklyn Bound."
In the summer of 2016, Excelsis was part of the Tippet Rise Music Festival in Montana, performing John Luther Adams' outdoor percussion piece "Inuksuit" alongside Doug Perkins and members of the Montana Symphony. In addition to their active performance schedule, Excelsis delivers masterclasses and educational workshops, most recently giving a clinic at the Salem State University in Massachusetts.
Excelsis Percussion Quartet’s breadth of repertoire spans from classical to avant-garde. With the presence of exciting arrangements, including Björk and other pop music covers, Excelsis advocates for multi-genre representation in their programming, charming audiences with contrasting and uniquely innovative concert experiences. Excelsis Percussion Quartet proudly endorses Sabian Cymbals.
Steve Reich – Drumming Part One
Paul Lansky – Threads
John Cage – Third Construction
Yaz Lancaster – Sequoia
Elliot Cole – Postludes
– Intermission –
Alejandro Viñao – Stress & Flow
Katherine Young – just water, no lemon
Steve Reich – Clapping Music
This program features the great chamber works of percussion that paved the way for new voices and contemporary masterpieces. Excelsis Percussion believes that sound exploration and expressivity are timeless and ever-expanding. This program simultaneously takes a step into the past while looking toward the possibilities of the future.
Björk – Hyperballad
Björk – Crystalline
a-ha – Take On Me
Coldplay – Viva La Vida
Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know
Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar
Billie Eilish – Therefore I am
– Intermission –
Clean Bandit – Rather Be
Camila Cabello – Havana
Olivia Rodrigo – deja vu
Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman
Beyoncé – Run the World (Girls)
BTS – Butter
BTS – Dynamite
This program celebrates multi-genre music through a juke-box inspired performance of pop music with a classical twist. Combined with elements of surprise and audience participation, this program creates a fun and accessible concert experience for all audiences and age groups.
Björk - Hyperballad
Björk - Crystalline
David Molk - Murmur
Alyssa Weinberg - Ember II
Juri Seo - vv
Jennifer Higdon - Zones
Joe Moore III - Spiritual Gifts
A blend of multiple styles, cultures, and soundscapes, this enticing program reimagines the classical concert experience through embracing contrast and the vast globality of cross-genre exploration. Excelsis Percussion brings together their different experiences and identities to share one unified program of powerful, multicultural chamber music.
Introducing the percussion family while demonstrating the instruments. Open with a piece together. Then, one by one, one person describes the snare drum, demonstrating it. The next person can demonstrate a tambourine, relating it to the snare drum, and playing a little on it. We can also discuss the sister instrument of the tambourine, the pandeiro, and its rich cultural history. Next, we can discuss pitched versus unpitched instruments. The next person can introduce the mallet instruments and discuss the origins in Africa and South/Central America. We can end by selecting a few students to come up, one by one, and have a mini lesson on each instrument.
Review all of the above, making a condensed version. Add on more facts about percussion within the different genres of music. For example, the creation of the bass drum pedal in New Orleans as a part of the parade traditions there. Then, its use in jazz music has influenced all the popular genres we listen to today: blues, pop, rock, hip hop, and country. Play an arrangement of a jazz tune and ask the students to listen to specific elements: melody, repetition, bass line, groove. One person can demonstrate hand drums and discuss the rich cultural history of hand drum playing in Africa and South America.
Discuss the makeup of the group and our cultural backgrounds, and the role of female percussionists in particular.
Students can go up to try the instruments, one by one, or we can do a canon game where one group repeats one rhythm, and the other group repeats another rhythm.
Review the basics of percussion^ (depending on the level). The discussion of pitched versus unpitched instruments, origins of all the instruments, with demonstrations/performances. The class is significantly more interactive, and students go up to play. They can either play their own pieces if they are percussionists, or we can do call and response and break up the classroom into groups to make “canon.”