Undergraduate Syllabus

MUS201.12 – MUS450.12

Applied Percussion Lessons

Course Information

BA in Music and Music Minor lessons: MUS201.12, 1-credit, half-hour lesson per week* (includes Studio Class)

Music Education Major lessons: MUS210.12, 2-credits, prior to Jr. Standing, MUS350.12 2cr thereafter – one hour lesson per week*  (includes Studio Class)

Music Performance Major lessons: MUS210.12, 2-credits, prior to Jr. Standing, MUS450.12 4cr thereafter – one hour lesson per week*  (includes Studio Class)

*To conform with UMaine class scheduling policy, the hour individual lesson is 50 minutes in length. This is complemented by 1 hour of Studio Class per week as part of Applied Lessons. Likewise for half-hour lessons, which are 25 minutes in length.

Faculty Information

Name: Stuart Marrs

Office: 339 Class of 1944 Hall

Phone: 581-1247

E-mail address:  marrs@maine.edu

Mail/message box:  School of Performing Arts, Office, room 208

Required equipment:

Please see Equipment Needs for First Year Percussion Students at the University of Maine

Metronome – electronic is best – I recommend one such as Dr. Beat, Korg, Yamaha or a metronome app for your smart phone. It should be capable of sub-dividing the beat.

Electronic Tuner – Electronic tuners or apps for your smart phone are now very inexpensive and they are invaluable for timpani study.

Sticks and Mallets – All percussion majors are expected to supply the appropriate array of sticks and mallets for each semester’s studies. The same requirement holds true for MUO150 (Percussion Ensemble); therefore each student should acquire a basic selection of sticks and mallets for all of the percussion instruments and plan to add more specialized mallets as the need arises.

Methods and Music  – All method books and/or music assigned must be acquired immediately. Most of the methods used in lessons are in the stacks Fogler Library and may be checked out like books. I recommend, however, that each student establish his/her own library, as it will be useful for future reference and for your own teaching.

Percussive Arts Society – It is important for percussion majors to be informed of the latest developments in our field. Membership in the PAS and the study of its trade journal, Percussive Notes, is therefore highly recommended. A VIP ePAS membership is available for $55 a year.


Journal – Percussion majors will find it beneficial to keep a journal. The contents should consist of:

  • Assignments entered by the instructor
  • Written, dated entries by the student describing:
    • practice strategy for each practice session
    • observations and commentaries about the music or exercises being studied

Goals: Until the Junior Standing exam, we will work on developing fundamental technique on all four major areas of percussion studies at the University of Maine: keyboard mallet instruments, snare drum, timpani and drum set. Topics typically covered are musicality, sound production, sight-reading, technique and the study of idiomatic literature. After Junior standing, we will focus on recital preparation and advanced technical studies.

Assignments: Each week’s assignment should be noted by the student in a notebook or electronically. It is expected that the entire assignment will be prepared for the following lesson.

Practice: Two large locked percussion practice rooms are located on the third floor are available for your individual practice. The percussion studio (104) may also be used during scheduled hours. Timpani, multiple percussion set-ups, and acoustic drum set practice will receive priority for the percussion studio. The marimba in the 3rd floor practice room should be used by preference for technical exercises. You must obtain a key from Building Manager, Birdie (Fredrick) Sawyer, for the locked rooms. The instrumental rehearsal room is also available for timpani or acoustic drum set practice when not otherwise in use. Students taking 2-cr lessons usually find that 1-2 hrs. of daily practice are sufficient to prepare the lesson material. These times should be incorporated into your daily schedules like regularly scheduled classes. Students in the Bachelor of Music in Performance degree program will receive 4 cr for lessons after Junior Standing and should program 2-4 hours of daily practice into their schedules. Masters students may need more time in the practice room.

Practice room schedules: You should sign up for your practice time on the Google Calendar room scheduling calendar that has been shared with you. Undergrads may sign up for a total of two hours per day. Masters students should use good judgment be considerate when reserving practice time. Open times are available on a first-come-first-serve basis.  Marimba students should use the 3rd floor marimba when possible.

Percussion Studio – Room 104 shall be kept neat, clean and tidy at all times. Mallet instruments and timpani must be covered when not in use. Personal items, must be kept in a locker – NOT IN 104.  There is to be no food nor drink except for water in room 104.

Studio Class – In addition to the weekly applied lesson, each applied percussion student is required to attend “Studio Class” (Thurs. 2:00-3:15); which counts as part of the applied course. Typical activities of studio class include:

  • Instruction in Pedagogy and Literature
  • Performance for the rest of the class with an ensuing period of critique
  • Discussion of regular readings from Blades, History of Percussion Instruments
  • Student presentation of reports from Percussive Notes
  • Instrument and mallet repair workshop
  • Discussion of the percussion business and industry and career concerns
  • Instruction on percussion accessories and non-traditional percussion instruments

Evaluation: You will be given constant feed-back on your progress. You are encouraged to frequently discuss your short-term and long-term goals with your instructor. Your grade will be based on:

  • weekly progress towards the successful completion of the goals of the course
    • The specific goals are individualized for each student and are determined together with the instructor at the beginning of the semester
  • final achievement of the goals of the course as reflected in the final jury grade
  • attitude, attendance, and general level of preparation
  • Professionalism (see below)


Success in any area of percussion studies from BA to BME to BM in Performance requires an acute understanding of “professionalism.” The music discipline at large requires more than learning to play music well. There are a whole set of expectations that accompany playing and/or teaching an instrument, that any successful music student will study, absorb, and put into practice. These extra-musical expectations include, but are not limited to:

  • Solid communications skills, e.g. sharing and verifying rehearsal and concert schedules; seeking clarification for procedures concerning recitals and juries, etc. Thoroughly familiarizing yourself with the important information contained in the Music Division Undergraduate Student Handbook should go without saying.
  • Preparation of your part in an ensemble prior to the first rehearsal. Rehearsals are not where parts are learned, rather they are for balance, interpretation, and for percussionists: implement selection (sticks, mallets, beaters) that support the previous two objectives of a rehearsal. Preparation also includes the logistics of a multiple percussion set-up: instrument positions, stick trays, etc.
  • Collegiality:  It is important for colleagues to get along in order to rehearse efficiently and perform well. If something is not going well, it is considered best practice to look to oneself first to see what adjustments need to be made rather than immediately suggesting that others are at fault.
  • Academic study of issues surrounding performance in general and of specific pieces in the repertoire. There are many articles and studies published by musicians who have already performed the piece you are preparing and who offer up their research, expertise, and experience for your benefit. Even if you disagree with some element of what you read, it can still help to clarify your own thoughts on the matter.
  • Punctuality: For a musician, if you are on-time, you are late! This is especially the case for percussion where it is time-consuming to move and set up instruments prior to even beginning your warm up.
  • Managing your priorities: If you seek an undergraduate degree in music, it makes sense for that to be your number one priority. It is expensive, and not progressing due to conflicting priorities with your private concerns would be a costly distraction from your ultimate goal.

The above extra-musical expectations are important for your university career, because they are essential for your professional career, whether it is teaching or performance. In the professional world, you will often not be offered a second chance. Your applied instruction is one place of several during your undergraduate career where you can hone these attributes.

Jury: The jury is the “final exam” of the course and is presented at the end of the semester before your percussion instructor and two other faculty members. The exam is approx. 20 min. in length and reflects the semester’s accomplishments. Although specific etudes or pieces are usually prepared for the jury, the student may be asked to demonstrate any material covered during the semester. You may be asked to sight read on any of the instruments studied during the semester. During the semester of the “Junior Standing” exam and the semester of the solo recital, the final jury is waived.

Junior Standing

At the end of the 8th credit hour of applied study, (usually the end of the fourth semester) there is a performance examination before the entire music faculty. Successful completion of this fourth semester jury is a prerequisite to further applied music studies at the MUS350 or MUS450 level. For BA students, successfully passing the Junior Standing Exam (aka Final Exam) marks the end of the applied instruction degree requirement. The percussion requirements for the Junior Standing are as follows:

The percussion student should be prepared to demonstrate performance technique and knowledge of each of the four major categories. The minimum requirements for each category are:

Snare drum:

  • The PAS International rudiments
  • A prepared “concert” snare drum solo

Drum set:

  • Time, breaks, and solos in swing, rock and Latin
  • A prepared “chart” to be performed with tape or live group


  • Demonstration of technical etudes on two timpani showing cross-sticking, rolls, muffling, tuning, etc.
  • A prepared etude or solo


  • 2-mallet playing – all scales and arpeggios – 2 octaves
  • 4-mallet playing at an introductory level
  • A prepared solo or etude

* For BA in Jazz Studies, please see the corresponding curriculum.


Required Syllabus Information