FHC’s Night of Percussion showcases an intensely dedicated and talented group


Some of FHC’s percussionists during this year’s drumline band camp.

Seated in front of her band classroom, watching a particular group of students perform Fortnite dances in the back, Band Instructor Laura Zilhaver had no way of knowing these entertainers would make a final percussion performance so emotional. 

The Night of Percussion concert held on Apr. 28at the FHC Auditorium is an event to celebrate the hard work and dedication of a select few individuals. Although the night includes performances from students of all high school grade levels, it’s especially fulfilling for the seniors who have been working towards their craft since the very first day of their freshman year.

“I’m really proud of how far they’ve come,” Zilhaver said. “I had them as freshmen all the way through [now], and I’m really proud of them. They have grown up a lot and are playing some really hard music. I really hope they enjoy their last concert.”

Especially with the unforeseen challenges of a pandemic, their skills as performers are particularly impressive. The pieces they’re performing, some of which seniors first started learning in 2019, are extremely challenging and take a great deal of effort to perform to the level that this group manages. 

Throughout the showcase, an audience member can expect pieces such as “Escaping a Nightmare,” an eerie tune with a “dream-like” feel. There are also many opportunities for students to perform solo and duet pieces in order to even further express their abilities. 

“What I like about The Night of Percussion is it’s just percussion ensemble, so we can spend a little bit more time presenting all of our work to the community,” Zilhaver said. “So, instead of our other concerts where we usually do three pieces, for this [concert], I think we’re doing six or seven pieces. It’s a really nice way to showcase our percussion ensemble.”

Along with the uniqueness of the number of pieces in their performance and the music’s opportunity to display their talent, there is also sentimental reasoning behind their selections. Senior Ben Taylor, along with the rest of the group, is most excited about their musical number entitled “Power-struggle” which features the incredible ensemble ability of the group but also showcases their unique percussion talents.

“We had a lot of cool music lined up for 2020 that we were super excited about, and then COVID hit, and we never did them,” Ben said. “So, a lot of those pieces [that] we thought were really cool, we are finally bringing out now. There’s this one piece called ‘power-struggle’ that as freshmen, we watched the seniors play and we were like ‘it’s so sick,’ and now [Ms. Zilhaver] is letting us play it which is kind of cool.”

Despite the thrill of the music, there are many other reasons Ben finds interest in the band. With the course being a zero-hour class, there are a lot of extra—and exhausting—hours to bond with other classmates during the school year.

“It’s a really good time–percussion and drumline,” Ben said. “It does suck waking up that early in the morning, but doing it all four years with this group of guys has [helped us become] really tight. They have become some of my really close friends, and honestly, they’re some of the main reasons I’ve stayed in band.”

It does suck waking up that early in the morning, but doing it all four years with this group of guys has [helped us become] really tight. They have become some of my really close friends, and honestly, they’re some of the main reasons I’ve stayed in band.

— Ben Taylor

One student that has made the experience for Ben is fellow percussionist senior Sunny Xu. The two have been able to not only form a friendship, but also a musical duet that they will be performing at The Night of Percussion. 

“[We decided to do a duet] mainly because of [FHC graduate] Tommy Hendricks. He inspired us to start four-malleting, and then we started learning solos, and eventually got to a point where we wanted to do a duet together; then we picked out a suitable one, Tommy helped us with that.”

Clearly, the community that band has created is one that fosters a large amount of passion, talent, and connection. Each student provides their own element to create the best ensemble effort possible, and Sunny takes this responsibility to give back what he has received very seriously.

“I’m definitely trying to pass everything [the upperclassman] taught me forward,” Sunny said. “I’m trying to teach the upcoming freshmen so that when we graduate, all of the [knowledge] will still be at FHC.”

No matter when you end up watching FHC’s percussionists, the preparation and brilliance that goes into each piece they perform will be worthwhile. Whether it be their reputations or an accidental preview of their talents walking down the hallway that entices you, the ensemble’s camaraderie and dedication will keep you enthralled.

“[My favorite part of percussion] is just hanging out with the guys and bonding with each other,” Sunny said. “Learning the music is important, but you have to connect with everyone to make really good music.”