Percussion Ensemble Features in Jazz Band’s Final Concert: See Moments Here


Peter Philpott

Sophomore percussionist River Smith plays the marimba during “Hannibal’s Revenge.” Creek’s after-school percussion ensemble gives students opportunities to play independently from concert bands.

Peter Philpott, Assistant News Editor

Creek’s Jazz bands played their final concert of the year on May 5, preceded by the after-school percussion ensemble.

The ensemble began in 2016, and since then, it has become a place where Creek percussionists can extend their interest after school. Students can play a wider variety of instruments, and it allows them to play drums and mallets, among others, solely and not being attached to a concert band.

Percussion ensemble freshman Daniel Roitman has seen the group’s advancement through the school year. “At the beginning of the year, we definitely weren’t that good,” Roitman said. “Throughout, our technique, our style, the little things have really improved a lot.”

At the beginning of the year, even some seasoned students were unfamiliar with some instruments. “As far as hand drumming went, we didn’t know very much yet, and we got to know all the different sounds,” junior percussionist Tamsin Miller said. “[But] our rhythmic accuracy really improved, we got really good at playing together.”

The group gave non-percussionists the chance to learn new skills in different areas of music, like sophomore saxophonist and French hornist River Smith. “[Some of us] are not percussionists,” they said. “But throughout the course of the program, I really improved to the point where I’ve become quite good at what I do.”

The idea of a dedicated percussion ensemble is a new concept at Creek, and it’s a rarity in other high schools, let alone middle schools like West or Campus. As a freshman, Roitman especially appreciates Creek’s extensive percussion resources compared to the experience at his West Middle School.

“We only had four percussionists, and there was no percussion ensemble program,” Roitman said. “You have way more opportunities and way more things to do…being able to play just with percussionists is a really cool experience.”

Roitman pointed out percussion teacher Mike Nevin as an integral part of the program. Nevin has instructed students in concert, jazz, and marching bands for 16 years at Creek, and all that time, he worked closely with band director Tim Libby. “It’s been great working with Mr. Libby, and I’ve really enjoyed my stay at Creek,” Nevin said. “We average about 14 in the percussion ensemble, and they’re all really great students.”

Nevin recently announced his retirement, and Libby gave a heartfelt speech as a goodbye to the longtime teacher before the performance of “Twisted Taffee.” “I would not be the teacher I am today if it had not been for my relationship and the mentorship of Mike Nevin,” Libby said in his address.

“In general, the parts [Nevin] writes are really good at targeting different things we need,” Miller said. “He really emphasizes technique…and each year, he chooses something to focus on, so everyone gets that skill.”

Nevin was featured in the percussion ensemble, playing steel pan during “Hannibal’s Revenge.” He noted the improvement of the group, especially with incoming freshmen. “We do a lot of very complicated rhythms, so it’s really foreign for a lot of these guys,” Nevin said. “To come up here and do all the keyboard and percussion stuff, that’s a big thing to learn.”

The band program is not just losing Nevin, but also assistant band director Jessica Vaughn. 

Vaughn has worked at Creek since 2021, where she has made connections with students and all branches of the band community. 

“She has worked very hard to get to know and tailor specific and helpful advice to all of her students,” Jazz A junior tenor saxophonist Isabella Sandvall said. “She’s very invested in encouraging individual growth. She is unbelievably passionate about teaching and that energy is infectious.”

Vaughn conducted and taught the Jazz B band, who performed five songs after percussion ensemble. One song, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” was accompanied by a lengthened solo from junior tenor saxophonist Dallas Van.

“I was very nervous, and I messed up a bit but I got back on my feet,” Van said. “I was able to play through, bringing the energy.”

Van was happy with the progression of Jazz B. He remembered not looking forward to it at the beginning of the year, but he began to fit in and truly enjoy the class. “Personally, I improved a lot myself on overall technique, I’m pretty proud of where I ended up,” Van said. “I’m proud of everyone in Jazz B and I’m glad I got to work with this class.”

Jazz B senior percussionist Joey Rodriguez also took pride in the improvement of his band. According to Libby, he acted as a mentor for students in Jazz B, and he noticed great development in the band. “So much improvement [here]. at the beginning of the year, my ears were bleeding,” Rodriguez said. “End of the year, they got so much better.”

Sandvall was featured, along with Jazz A senior alto saxophonist Avi Grope, in the concert’s closing song, “Twisted Taffee.” Sandvall noticed, like the other bands, improvement in her band’s skill and ability to form together.

“I think that over the course of the year, everyone in the band, individually, have become a lot stronger of a player and a soloist,” Sandvall said. “Because of that individual work that was put in for a lot of us, it made the unit super, super strong.”

See moments from the concert below.