Iowa Percussion is one of the oldest and most active percussion programs in the country, established in 1958 when Iowa hired Thomas L. Davis as its first professor of percussion. In 1996 Dr. Daniel Moore became the second professor in the program's history.
Ensembles have shared the stage with outstanding performers such as alumni Steven Schick, Yousif Sheronick, and John Wooton, as well as Mike Mainieri, Matt Wilson, Mat Britain, Johnny Rabb, Renzo Spiteri, Anders Åstrand, Ray Holman, Dick Sisto, Liam Teague, Mat Britain, Andrew Spencer, Jiao Shan Lin, Daniella Ganeva, Jimmy Finnie, Robert Chappell, and J.C. Combs. Iowa Percussion has sponsored recitals and clinics by notable artists such as Dave Samuels, Gary Burton and Chick Corea, Stefon Harris, Keiko Kotoku, Kai Stensgaard, Daniella Ganeva, Richard L. “Dick” Schory, alumnus Nick Petrella, Robert Breithaupt, James Campbell, Brett Kuhn, Julia Gaines, alumnus Lee Ferguson’s Duo Contour, the Sylvia Smith Duo, the U.S. Army Old Guard, and Maraca2.
Iowa Percussion ensembles have performed around the state and the Midwest, in China, and at two Percussive Arts Society International Conventions.
The Iowa Percussion Ensemble performs a range of literature for the endlessly variable medium of percussion ensemble. From duos, trios, and quartets to large works for more than twenty players, the group delves into many diverse and exciting musical styles from contemporary to jazz and world music. The ensemble regularly premieres new works for percussion by composers such as Pulitzer Prize winner and Iowa alumnus David Lang, American musical icon Robert Moran, and the enigmatic banjo-playing Paul Elwood. Moran described the premiere of his composition Stirling: It's Raining Cats and Dogs as ". . . one of the finest performances of any of my scores in my entire career."
The group has recorded two CDs, Jungle Fever and Take Me to Your Leader, and their contribution to Mantra, a CD of the music of Robert Moran on the Innova label, received excellent reviews. Iowa Percussion is currently working on a CD of Moran's important graphic scores of the 1960s and 70s for a NAXOS label release.
Iowa Percussion has studied Chinese drumming in Beijing and performs on their extensive collection of Chinese instruments. They also explore African drumming, Brazilian samba, steel band, and improvised and electronic percussion.
The Iowa Graduate Percussion Ensemble was formed in the 1980s by Iowa Percussion alumnus Steven Schick as a means to examine more advanced contemporary and repertory music for percussion. Ranging in size from four to six players (graduate and some undergraduate), the group works independently to program and prepare repertoire based on the interests of individual performers.
The University of Iowa's PanAmerican Steel Band is perhaps the most recognized percussion group on campus. They perform regularly throughout Iowa and the Midwest through the UI Arts Share program. The band has four critically acclaimed recordings to their credit: everywhere Calypso, Noise Brigade, Queen of the Bands, and their latest album, Jungle Music with Andy Narell. In addition to the annual Percussion Spectacular, they appear at events sponsored by UI Cancer Survivors, American Heart Association, UI Dance Marathon, United Way of Johnson County, The Belin-Blank Honors Center, and many others. Each summer they present a very popular concert at F.W. Kent Park to an enthusiastic audience.
Their music ranges from folk and popular styles to the most challenging new music for pans by composers such as Ray Holman, Andy Narell and others. The band has performed with pan artists Mat Britain, Liam Teague, John Wooton, and Ray Holman.
Iowa Percussion maintains two steel bands for those wishing to expand their musical horizons. Steel Band II and III are open to any UI student who can read music. These groups also serve as training bands for the PanAmerican Steel Band. Music Therapy and Music Education students enjoy playing in these bands as a way to improve their rhythmic understanding and sense of groove.