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Major Drums: Percussion Ensembles to Perform Fall Concert

(Posted November 23, 2009)

James Latten, associate professor of music, found the inner music present in an MRI machine and composed a percussion piece, "IMR: Images of Magnetic Resonance."

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Having an MRI test isn't exactly musical, but Juniata College musician James Latten, associate professor of music, found enough rhythm, and grooves within the "tube" to inspire his composition "IMR: Images of Magnetic Resonance" which will lead off the Juniata Percussion Ensembles concert at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 3 in Alumni Hall in the Brumbaugh Academic Center.

The concert is free and open to the public. The Percussion Ensembles are conducted by James Latten, associate professor of music at Juniata.

Latten composed the "IMR" piece using only percussion instruments and debuted the composition at Juniata in January 2006. Because there are no other instruments to provide a melody, Latten had to design the sound of the composition to create tension and drama. In the middle of the writing process, Latten even received permission from J.C. Blair Hospital in Huntingdon to record their MRI machine in order to keep the composition true to life. The composition lasts 10 minutes.

Latten received five MRI's starting in 2001 for ailments that include a bad back, an ache he traces back to lifting bulky percussion equipment and carrying large drum sets in the many marching bands he has performed in. Latten has dedicated the piece to the radiation and oncology professionals at J.C. Blair memorial Hospital in Huntingdon, Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College, Pa. and Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

After "IMR," the ensemble will switch from music inspired by medicine to tunes inspired by plumbing as Juniata PVC Pipe Ensemble (a small group that plays music on large instruments made of PVC pipe of varying lengths) plays "Don't Worry, Be Happy," "Cha Cha Sandwich" and "Sly Mongoose."

Latten composed the "IMR" piece using only percussion instruments and debuted the composition at Juniata in January 2006.

The entire Percussion Ensemble will then play a series of drum-friendly works, including "Funk-2-3-4," conducted by Juniata junior Andrea Burton, and "Junk Funk," both written by Mario Gaetano, a percussion professor at Western Carolina University. The group also will tackle "A La Samba," written by Mitchell Peters, and "Music for Pieces of Wood," played on claves (short, cylindrical pieces of wood) and in this case, a few pieces of PVC pipe.

The concert will end with the college's Keyboard Percussion Choir, which is comprised of students playing marimbas, xylophones and vibraphone. The group will play "Allegro" from "Water Music" by George Frideric Handel, followed by "Myshe," written by Larry Thead.

Finally, in recognition of the upcoming holiday season, the percussion chair will play "Angels We Have Heard on High," conducted by Juniata senior Katy Vanderau, and "Silent Night."

The members of the Juniata Percussion Ensembles are:

Chadi Bitar, a sophomore from Brooklyn, N.Y.; John Bogue, a freshman from East Berlin, Pa.; Caitlin Bradley, a freshman from Mendon, N.Y.; Andrea Burton, a junior from McLean, Va.; Jordan Campbell, a senior from Tyrone, Pa.; Amanda Durofchalk, a freshman from Wernersville, Pa.; Sara Garside, a sophomore from Sunbury, Pa.; Sergio Lopez, a junior from Edison, N.J.; John Lugg, a freshman from Lock Haven, Pa.; Anna Mintz, a freshman from Herndon, Va.; Tyler NeuCollins, a junior from Solon, Iowa; Amanda Schlosberg, a sophomore from Baldwin, N.Y.; Matt Shervey, a music teacher in the Juniata Valley School District; Sophia Suarez, a senior from Bronx, N.Y.; Jessica Toot, a freshman from New Oxford, Pa.; and Kathleen Vanderau, a senior from Scotland, Pa.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.