My name is Isabel Armenta and I am a 16-year-old percussionist who is part of the Percussion Scholarship Program (PSP). PSP is an intensive weekly percussion instruction program on a full scholarship. It offers private lessons to students ages 10 – 18 who are selected through the application and interview. From there you are taught high-level technique on snare drum and marimba. I have been in the program for six years and have grown significantly as a musician. When you are starting in the program you are taught in a big class, but when you get older you are given free private lessons with Douglas Waddell, Patricia Dash, or assistant teacher Simon Gomez. All are such amazing percussionists who have tons of experience in classical music.
Usually a week for me looks like this: after school I practice about two hours on snare drum and marimba. I am assigned stick control, rudiments, a rudimental solo, concert snare rudiments, and a concert solo to complete each week. I am assigned a page of marimba exercises/warm-ups, and a progress update on the four mallets solo that I am working on. During the middle of the week we are given the schedule for the next week’s lesson, which is held on Saturday. For lessons I go downtown every week to Symphony Center, where the lessons take place. It can vary from time to time but usually it is a 45 minute lesson in the morning or afternoon. When it comes time to prepare for auditions for summer programs, we use our lesson times to carefully prepare the repertoire, and the program helps record every individual’s audition.
I have about four concerts every year with PSP: a Spring Concert, Winter Concert, and two Family Day concerts. The Spring and Winter concerts are the most important, with a variety of percussion ensemble pieces and solos. Family Day concerts consist of each member of the program playing a solo for the families to watch. Both are usually held in Buntrock at Symphony Center.
Our teachers also encourage participation in a lot of programs. If it wasn’t for PSP, I wouldn’t be in CMPI or go to Interlochen Arts Summer Camp. Without the help of my teachers I wouldn’t have the support I need to achieve the progress I have made. Mrs. Dash and Mr. Waddell are always there when you need them. They helped me build the confidence and courage to leave for six weeks to go to summer camp, which was one of the best musical experiences of my life so far. Overall, PSP is such a supportive program that uplifts all of its musicians. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to stay, but all the benefits are worth it.
Provided by Isabel Armenta of the PSP participants