April 27, 2022–I remember the exact place and moment I decided to play drums.
I was in the 5th grade, attending Homecoming Weekend as the University of Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band passed by on Iowa Avenue in Iowa City, Iowa.
Standing on the curb as the drum section marched by, I could feel those bass drums pounding in my gut. It literally was a visceral experience.
The next week my dad brought home a cobbled together drum set (the pedal was a Phillips screwdriver with a dishrag masking-taped to the handle) and I started lessons.
Two ladies involved in writing and performing Primitive Echoes, a song to be featured at the Symphony of the Hills concert on April 28, recall similar experiences.
With a father who was a band teacher and big band drummer, Sherry Rubins was “born hearing drums.”
“I sort of came by it naturally,” said Rubins, who will perform the tympani solo. “So I started playing drums when I was five, and I don’t think I thought of doing anything else.”
Today Rubins is coordinator of the percussion program at the University of Texas at San Antonio and Principal Timpanist with the Mid-Texas Symphony. She also presents clinics and performances, and is an artist and educational clinician for Zildjian Cymbals, Remo Percussion, the Yamaha Corporation, and the Vic Firth Company.
While the piece “Primitive Echoes” is a showcase for the percussion section, it holds more personal meaning for her, as the composer is Alice Gomez, a contemporary and friend in the world of classical music. Gomez also started her musical career as a drummer.
“I began my musical journey as a drummer in my father’s Latin dance band,” Gomez said. “So I have always been drawn to all kinds of drumming and percussion instruments. The rhythms that I used in Primitive Echoes were influenced by Native American powwow drums as well as by log drums and rattles from my own Mexican Indian culture.”
Rubins will turn to instruments used by indigenous people.
“Of course it’s very rhythmic,” Rubins said of the piece. “It has a Native American feel to it. There’s a moment in this concerto where I have ankle bells, but I’m going to be shaking them. And then some other shakers that I’m actually going to strike the drums with.”
While some may perceive the kettle drum as atonal, they actually boast a surprisingly tunable melodic range. Rubins will be using four of them.
“Absolutely, there is lots of melody,” she said. “Alice has quite a few pitch changes that she’s written, so it’s very melodic, along with obviously rhythmic. So you’ll hear the sort of modal sound of Native American music, only through the drumset.”
Rubins is looking forward to this concert for several reasons.
“I’m looking forward to seeing people that I know, and we’re all excited about playing live music for a live audience.”
Composer Alice Gomez plans to be in the audience to hear her piece, which has never been recorded.
“I am looking forward to hearing Sherry play Primitive Echoes with Symphony of the Hills,” Gomez said. ‘I haven’t heard this piece performed since its premier in 1992. It will be like hearing it for the first time! The excitement of hearing my works performed never wears off. The performers and conductors all have their own interpretations of how the piece is to be played. That’s what makes each performance so exciting.”
Every drummer will agree.
Kerrville’s Symphony of the Hills presents “Primitive Echoes: mystery of war and peace” on Thursday, April 28, 2022, at 7:30 p.m. at the Cailloux Theater, 910 Main, Kerrville TX.
Seats can be reserved online at caillouxperformingarts.com or by calling or visiting the Cailloux Theater Box Office, (830) 896-9393.