Park City High School teacher Bret Hughes will pound out percussion concert
What: Bret Hughes percussion concert
When: 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 25
Where: Room 270 at the University of Utah’s David Gardner Hall
Although Bret Hughes has taught percussion at Park City High School since 2008, he felt the need to go back to school and learn more about his craft.
Five semesters ago, Hughes enrolled in the master’s program of performance at the University of Utah, and to finish his degree, Hughes will perform a free percussion concert at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 25, in room 270 at the University of Utah’s David Gardner Hall.
The evening will feature solo percussion pieces as well as a couple of duets, Hughes said.
One duet will be a pandeiro piece with Augusto Santos, another U. graduate student.
“The pandeiro is a traditional Brazilian tambourine, and Augusto is actually from Brazil,” Hughes said. “This is his first semester at the U. And we’ll do a unique hand-drum duet.”
The other duet is a piece called “Legal Highs,” by David P. Jones, that Hughes will perform with Scott Tanner, the Park City High School orchestra director.
Hughes will start the evening with frame-drum solos on the bodhran and tar are traditional drums respectively from Ireland and the Middle East.
Hughes will continue the performance with a solo marimba work, “Reflections on the Nature Water,” by Jacob Druckman.
“That is one of the most popular marimba solos and is a staple of the (percussion) literature,” Hughes said.
Hughes, who is Park City High School’s director of percussion, will also showcase his mastery of the orchestra snare drum before performing the vibraphone.
“I’ll play the vibraphone piece against a pre-recorded, percussion-instrument backing track,” he said. “It will sound like I’m playing in a percussion ensemble, but it will be just me and the track.”
Hughes will end the evening with a piece called “The Anvil Chorus” by David Lang.
“‘The Anvil Chorus’ is what we call a multi-percussion piece, where one person plays multiple instruments at the same time,” he said.
In this case, the instruments Hughes plans to play are everyday objects such as circular saw blades, frying pans and other junk metals.
“It’s programmatic music that is meant to elicit images of multiple blacksmiths working on a large project,” he said. “The blacksmiths would sing different songs that would help keep their hammerings in time, so they would hit at the right rate on the work.”
“On the surface, the piece sounds like someone is hitting random metal objects, but in reality the piece is mathematically based,” he said. “So one sound will happen every five beats and another sound will happen every seven beats.”
Hughes selected the works with the help of Dr. Michael Sammons, the percussion area head at the University of Utah and Hughes’ private teacher.
“He and I had a great professional relationship on the board of the Utah Percussive Arts Society before I became a graduate student,” Hughes said. “We began looking for music a year ago and finalized the program in July.”
Hughes decided to pursue the degree after working 12 years as director of percussion at Park City High School.
“I needed to work on how my hands moved and sounded,” he said. “There were things that my brain understood that I wanted to do, but my hands didn’t have the technique to do. So, after watching my peers play, I realized that I have quite a bit to learn.”
Still, percussion wasn’t Hughes’ first foray into music when he was growing up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, he said.
“I actually started playing the trumpet in fifth grade,” he said. “I played for a few years, and about the time I got to junior high, I was very much interested in percussion.”
Hughes learned that if he stopped bringing his trumpet to class, he could convince the band director to let him play percussion.
“During those times, I convinced him that I was where I needed to be,” he said.
Hughes kept his percussion chops up with marching and jazz bands throughout high school.
“My high school director recommended me for all-state band, all-Northwest band and different audition ensembles that pushed my playing caliber up,” Hughes said. “He also encouraged me to study at the University of Wyoming, and my professors there helped hammer home that not only did I want to teach music, but that I also wanted to play.”
While Hughes was an undergraduate at the university he met Park City High School Band Director Chris Taylor.
Taylor went on sabbatical so he could attended the University of Wyoming to get his masters degree in music, according to Hughes.
“We met and worked out all the details for me to come out to Park City to student teach in the spring of 2008, and all the blocks fell into place,” Hughes said.
During his first nine years in Utah, Hughes performed with the Utah Wind Symphony and the Salt Lake Symphony.
“I also got called to sub for the Utah Symphony a couple of times, and played a show at the Pioneer Memorial Theatre,” he said. “Through that process, I learned that if I wanted to do that more consistency and play at a higher level, I needed more education. That’s why I made the decision to go back to school.”
Hughes went into to the masters program with the understanding that he wanted to perform more, even if that meant stepping down as a teacher.
“What I learned, however, is that working on myself to become a better performer has made me a much better teacher,” he said. “My ears have gotten more refined, and I now know how to teach things substantially better than I used to, because I’m working on the same things with my own playing.”
Because of the additional training, Hughes has noticed the how much the quality of the award-winning percussion program at Park City High School and Treasure Mountain Junior High School has improved.
“This has led me to know that I’m in the right place,” he said. “I have an outstanding gig at the Park City High School. I have outstanding students.”
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