Pensacola West: perfectly precise percussion

By Shawna Moore
Staff Writer

In early April, a collaborative percussion group made up of students from the University of West Florida and Pensacola State College performed at UWF and left the audience in awe.

Pensacola West Percussion Ensemble — a mixed name to represent both institutions – performed a concert titled “1…2….3….4…” in the Mainstage Theatre of the Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

Erica Scharron, UWF sophomore psychology major, offered praise and respect for the collaborative group: “I love the percussion performances because the rhythm is really cool. These guys are so great!”

Photo courtesy of UWF Percussion Facebook

This group likes to get creative with their performance pieces. Xaria Williams, freshman at UWF and criminal justice major, explained a recent routine that the ensemble worked on using different sized coffee cups to create musical rhythm and sound. Williams explained how tapping on a lone coffee cup does not sound interesting by itself, but once the whole group has different size and style coffee mugs, it melds together perfectly.

This spring was Williams’ second semester in the ensemble. “Last semester when I started, it was the best thing ever,” she said. “I plan to do it the rest of my years here.”

The creative authority and director of the ensemble is Laura Noah. Noah has a master’s degree in music from John Hopkins University and is the principal timpanist for the Mobile, Pensacola, Gulf Coast (Biloxi) and Meridian (Mississippi) symphonies. She is an adjunct instructor at Pensacola State College, the University of Mobile and UWF.

Noah created the collaborative group between PSC and UWF in fall of 2014 because of the schools’ proximity to one another and the need for both schools to have a percussion ensemble. Noah said that the schools work better as a pair than individually. “This type of collaboration keeps the schools and students on par with other studios in the country,” she said.

Jonathan Swain, UWF sophomore music education major and member of the ensemble, said in an email interview that he believes the percussion group does great things for both colleges’ music programs. One of the biggest lessons Swain said he has learned is “hard work will go noticed, even if it doesn’t feel like it.”

Williams said that Noah’s teaching style allows her to flourish as an artist. “She does not beat around the bush! I like it.” Williams said that the group meets twice a week to tweak and perfect, but that individual members are expected to practice on their own as well. Williams also said that though Noah is very involved with other musical groups, she gives a lot of time and attention to Pensacola West.

Williams also pushed for everyone to give Pensacola West a try. “Come out and listen, or if you are musically inclined or interested in music in any way, come join!”

Noah said she is always looking for percussionists. “I look for students who have a desire to and an affinity to play percussion.” She also said that her percussion groups are full of different types of people who range from “just-like-to-hit-things drummers” to individuals that truly want to understand the art of percussion.

If you are, or know somebody who would be, interested in joining Pensacola West Percussion Ensemble, there will be an informational meeting held at 5 p.m. on Aug. 29 in the UWF band room. If you have any questions, Noah can be reached at LNoah@uwf.edu.