Percussion Students with Instruments

About the program

The SJSU School of Music and Dance offers a variety of performance experiences for aspiring musicians in the percussion field. Percussion lessons concentrate on snare drum, keyboard percussion, timpani, and multiple percussion. Students may also take lessons in drum-set percussion. Ensembles for percussionists include the Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Symphony Orchestra, the SJSU Percussion Ensemble, the Jazz Orchestra, African Drumming, Jazz Combos, and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble. These ensembles exhibit a high level of performance excellence and are coached and conducted by the actively performing and highly respected faculty. Students are provided with exposure to multiple styles of music in the performance of standard and contemporary large ensemble and chamber literature. Students are encouraged to broaden their experiences in international percussion playing through ensemble participation.

Degrees Offered

  • Bachelor of Arts in Music
  • Bachelor of Music in Performance
  • Bachelor of Music in Music Education
  • Masters of Arts in Music
  • Minor in Music


Audition Information

A list of suggested audition repertoire is provided.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I receive private lessons?

Yes, all percussion students receive a weekly lesson. Performance majors receive a one-hour lesson each week, and music education and jazz studies majors receive a 30-minute lesson each week.

Can I participate in marching band?

Yes, there are excellent opportunities for percussion majors to perform in the Spartan Marching Band, including performing in their outstanding drum line or in their pit percussion. All music majors performing in the marching band receive an automatic scholarship and priority registration for their classes.

How well do I need to play mallet instruments?

Mallet instruments are an important element in the percussion area. Faculty work with students at their ability level to move them ahead as mallet performers. Some basic skill on mallet instruments is required for admission into the percussion program.

Will I be able to play drum set?

There are many opportunities in the jazz studies area to perform on drum set. While classical performers will be in competition with jazz studies majors, many players regularly perform in both areas.

Can I get a scholarship?

Yes, please contact Professor Galen Lemmon or Scott Pierson to set up a scholarship audition. These on-campus auditions usually take place on three dates during the spring semester.

What should I play for admissions into the School of Music and Dance or for a scholarship audition?

Students are encouraged to perform pieces on a variety of percussion instruments, including mallets, timpani, and snare drum. For specific audition recommendations, please see the Undergraduate Music Handbook, which can be found on the School’s website.

What type of equipment is available?

The School owns three sets of timpani, four marimbas (two of which are 5-octave), three xylophones and vibraphones, celesta, and a very extensive collection of battery percussion instruments.

Can I perform in the Percussion Ensemble?

Yes, all percussion majors are required to be in the percussion ensemble as a part of their studio experience. The percussion ensemble plays a wide variety of music ranging from traditional classical works to non-western music. Musical styles range from traditional and avant-garde to jazz and popular influences compositions.

Do I need to own my own sticks and mallets?

Yes, it is expected of all percussion to own a stick bag with several sets of timpani sticks and several sets of xylophone, marimba, and bell mallets.

How important is it to start piano or keyboard studies?

It is very important to start to work on piano skills as early as possible. All music majors must enroll in Music 25A or 25B each semester until they have passed their piano proficiency. Any work with keyboard instruments transfers and improves mallet performance skills.