Learning the 'language' of percussion
Micah Prescott not only marches to the beat of another drummer, he IS that other
Micah, a sophomore from Newnan, is studying composition and music technology in
addition to percussion performance – and he loves every minute of it.
"With a percussion major, you have so many instruments to choose from," he says.
"You have to be almost multilingual because it is like you are learning a bunch
of different languages. It's within the same framework – you use your hands, your
wrists, your arms and sometimes you use your feet – but it's very open and wide-ranging."
Those instruments may include a timpani, xylophone, marimba, snare drum, bass
drum, cymbal, bells, steel drum – the list goes on and on. "When you play a clarinet,
you use the same muscles all the time and you have to be very focused. But when
you are a percussionist, you have to know not only the snare drum but also your
mallet instruments (marimbas, steel drums, etc.). It's a very wide group, so instead
of just practicing one or two hours on one instrument, you've got to make sure
you are equally diverse in all of them. It becomes very detailed. Sometimes it
looks very simple but there is so much time spent on it."
Micah says he was introduced to music when he was 9 years old.
"I was in elementary school, and they started us on recorders. It kind of progressed
– the more I played the deeper I got into it. I loved the different things you
could do with it, how creative and almost open-ended music is because you can apply
it in so many different ways. You can be not only a composer, but you can be a
performer and a teacher – there is a big box of jobs." At LaGrange, Micah has the
opportunity to explore all those options. In addition to his classes, he has been
able to perform around the area.
"I've been playing in churches and at a theater in Tyrone," he says. "With Lee
Johnson (Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Music), I composed a percussion ensemble
and the Columbus State University percussion group came to LaGrange to record it."
He's also tried his hand at writing music. "We are so lucky here because the whole
(Music Department) staff is so encouraging. They told me to go write a percussion
ensemble – so I wrote one. It was a blast."
Although he says it is hard to choose, Micah has a special fondness for the keyboard
percussion instruments – the marimba, xylophone, etc.
"You can be such much more melodic and musical with them. I find it more interesting
playing those because of the detail involved and the intricacies with the muscles.
I like the sound of the vibe best because it has such a jazz feel, but I find myself
playing the marimba more. It's easier for me to practice because it is more melodic."
Ask Micah about the world-renowned percussion group Nexus, who will be performing
at 7:30 p.m. March 23 in Callaway Auditorium, and the young musician beams.
"Wow, Nexus. They are a horse of a different color, really cool. Ever since I
was little, I heard about Nexus because my grandfather knew some of the group,
and he would always talk about them. They are so diverse and know all their instruments
so well. They are master percussionists way beyond the college and doctorate levels."
A lot of the group's music is based on Indian scales, and scales not typically
known in modern music, or even in classical music, he says.
"They are arguably the best percussionists in the world, and they are coming here.
I have a wonderful chance to talk to them one-on-one. Wow, I am definitely lucky."