School of Music > Academics > Studios & Areas of Study > Percussion


​The DePaul School of Music Percussion Department strives to instill in each student the fundamentals of technique and musicianship that are essential for a career in music, regardless of area of emphasis. Undergraduate students in the percussion department have varied career tracks such as performance, music education, performing arts management, sound recording and composition. The majority of our graduate students choose to focus on orchestral performance studies. In today's music industry, percussionists must have a strong foundation in ALL aspects of percussion, not just a select few. DePaul is unique because all seven of our faculty members are current or former professional performers, and we pass-on our first-hand knowledge to our students. Located in the heart of Chicago, students are exposed to performances of all kinds of music and have the opportunity to see and hear their teachers perform almost any night of the week. Students work on their ensemble skills in percussion ensemble, large ensembles and chamber groups. Solo skills are fostered in recitals, lessons, studio classes and mock orchestral auditions. We hope you will consider DePaul for your music education. 


Ian Ding
Ian Ding
Michael Kozakis
Michael Kozakis

Teacher Assignments

One of the assets of a DePaul School of Music education is the ability to study with a variety of teachers. Each quarter, upon consultation with the Department Coordinator, teachers are assigned based mainly on student preference/studio size/area of current emphasis. Students have the option of studying with one or two teachers per quarter for 10 hours. Each school year has 3 quarters, which is a total of 30 hours of private lessons. Should a student choose two teachers per quarter, then 5 hours will be with each teacher to reach the total of 10 hours. Most students who choose this option study with each teacher concurrently either 1 hour every other week, or hour with each teacher every week. Unlike many schools, all DePaul students study with the major faculty and NOT graduate assistants.

The Percussion Department offers a total of 2 graduate (non-teaching) assistantships. Duties include instrument maintenance, practice-room scheduling, and various other duties as needed in the department. Assistantships are renewable for the graduate's second year. Stipends are available for these positions.

Percussion Ensemble

The Percussion Ensemble consists of percussionists who perform a large variety of music expressly written for percussion. The ensemble is dedicated to performing a balance of historically important works and the latest contemporary works.  The ensemble performs a fall, winter, and spring concert as well as performances at student recitals and clinics. Performances include a mix of works written for the small chamber group to the large percussion orchestra.  The ensemble has had the opportunity to perform with a number of guest artists recently including Brett Dietz, Eric Millstein and Michael Burritt.

Click here to see the Percussion Ensemble perform on YouTube.
Click here to see a list of some recent programs given by the Percussion Ensemble.​

Large Ensembles

All percussionists at DePaul are assigned to large ensembles at the beginning of each school year through audition. Students can be assigned to Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Wind Symphony, Opera, and the New Music Ensemble, 20+. Occasionally, due to repertoire requirements, students are assigned to more than one ensemble per quarter.

Classes Offered

The Percussion Orchestral Repertoire Class, taught by Eric Millstein, is a two-year course in which more than one hundred pieces of music are discussed. The goal of the class is to familiarize students with the vast body of percussion and timpani audition excerpts as well as with the most commonly performed pieces of the orchestral literature for percussion. The course is run in the style of a studio class, in which the main emphasis is having students perform these excerpts in front of their peers. The final class of each quarter is a sectional, in which the students play all the percussion parts from a piece of standard orchestral repertoire as a section, along with a recording. The final exam of each quarter is a mock audition, which takes place in the school's concert hall.

The Latin Techniques Course, taught by Al Payson, explores major Latin instruments, dances and song styles. Instruments included are bongos, congas, timbales, cowbell, shakers, scraper, triangle, pandeiro and agogo bells. Students will learn to apply the techniques of those instruments, including "out-of-the-box" techniques, to a variety of musical situations.
The Concert Accessories Techniques Course, taught by Al Payson, covers tambourine, triangle, castanets, cymbals (crash and suspended), bass drum and tam-tam. In this course, students learn the various techniques of these instruments and how they are applied to symphonic, wind and chamber ensembles.
The Percussion Pedagogy Course, taught by Al Payson, explores teaching techniques of all the major percussion instruments, for students of beginning through advanced levels of proficiency. This includes examining techniques for motivating young students. The course also includes an in-depth examination of pertinent teaching materials, such as method books and collections. In addition to individual instruments, such topics as drum circle, marching drumming, world percussion (including forming an African ensemble), and constructing a college curriculum are explored.

The World Percussion Techniques Course, taught by Al Payson, teaches students the performance techniques and common rhythmic patterns of percussion instruments not usually associated with Western music. These instruments include the doumbek, riqq, jembe, dun-dun, shekere, pandeiro and cajon.

Students have the opportunity, should they choose, to play in the DePaul African Ensemble which was founded in Fall 2008 to further the understanding of music from Africa and the African Diaspora. Avo Randruut directs the ensemble and is assisted by Kate Brucher. Students in the ensemble come from many different programs within the School of Music, but they share a common interest in music of African cultures. They learn not only drumming technique and repertory, but also songs and movement as many cultures in West Africa integrate instrumental music, singing, dance, poetry, and theater.

Recent Alumni Accomplishments

Assistant Principal, Omaha Symphony
The United States Army Field Band, Washington, D.C.
The United States Navy Band, Washington, D.C.
Principal, Phoenix Symphony


In the past three years, we have had the opportunity to host masterclasses from some of the top performers in the percussion field:

  • Charles Settle - Percussion, Atlanta Symphony
  • Don Liuzzi - Timpani, Philadelphia Orchestra
  • John Tafoya former Timpanist, National Symphony Orchestra
  • Pat Schleker - Timpani, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
  • Will Hudgins Percussion, Boston Symphony
  • Greg Zuber Principal Percussion, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
  • Aiyun Huang Solo percussionist
  • Brent Roman Multi-percussionist
  • Ed Saindon - Vibes


The Percussion Department has 10 practice/rehearsal rooms and a studio size that strives to be between 18 and 22 students (including graduate students).  All of the equipment is well-maintained and updated on a regular basis.  Highlights of our inventory include:

1 set of Walter Light Mark XIV
1 set of Walter Light Mark XIV (German)
2 sets of Pearl/Adams Philharmonic Dresden Classic
1 set of Ludwig Ringer Berlin Pedal
1 set of Pearl/Adams Professional Cambered Bowl in Hammered Copper
2 sets of Ludwig Professional Symphonic Drums

4 Marimba One 5 octaves
1 Yamaha 5 octaves
1 Deagan, 4 1/3 octaves
1 Musser 4 1/3 octaves
1 Deagan 4 octaves

3 Musser Pros
1 Adams Vibraphone Artist
1 Deagan

2 Deagan 870
1 Deagan 855
1 Deagan 880
1 Adams Xylophone Artist
1 Musser M51
1 Musser M50
1 Leedy

1 Adams Orchestra Bell Artist
2 Fall Creek K-100 W
1 Fall Creek RT-1000
2 Deagan Box