In-depth Look into the Summer Percussion Workshop with Director Ken McGrath

Girl and boy with playing marimba with mallets in hands on stage, teacher Ken McGrath in background

With unique in-person and online experiences available, Ken McGrath has designed an unforgettable summer program for percussions ages 9–18.

Summer with the Colburn School is a tremendous opportunity to learn new skills, develop technique, work with talented faculty and guest artists, and meet new musical peers. As the summer fast approaches, the Community School is excited to host the Colburn Summer Percussion Workshop, directed by Ken McGrath. He gave us the scoop on what makes the camp unique, the exciting guest artists, and why this workshop is important to him.

Ken McGrathKenneth McGrath is a highly regarded performer and educator in Los Angeles. He has performed with many of the major orchestras in Southern California including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He currently serves on the percussion faculties of California State University Fullerton, the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts, and Pasadena City College. Ken is an alumnus of the University of California, Los Angeles and the Eastman School of Music.

My name is Ken McGrath and I am thrilled to be directing and teaching the Colburn Percussion Camp Workshop! This summer, the workshop will bring student percussionists from all over the country together for an exceptional online and in-person experience.

Open to a Wide Age Range

First of all, the Colburn Percussion Workshop provides a world-class education experience to a wide range of ages:

• very young percussionists ages 9-11
• middle school students; students who have some footing with their craft
• high school students; students who are farther along in their musical journey

Designed for Diverse Goals

With three separate sections of the workshop, students will receive targeted group instruction filled with technique, discussion, performances, and master classes perfectly geared to their level of experience.

Music education is such an important element of a student’s development, and the workshop recognizes the skills learned with their current percussion studies will stay with them their entire lives as active musicians, concert-goers, administrators, patrons, and appreciators.

Students will learn the musicianship and technique needed for top-level performing, but at a deeper level, workshop participants will develop musical communication, confidence, and artistry.

Virtual and On-Campus Learning

We are pleased to be offering a combination of online and in-person instruction. June 14–18 will use the online format for middle and high school students. More mature percussionists will be able to experience this exceptional training from anywhere in the country.

June 21–25 will be taught in-person on the Colburn campus. For young percussionists in the greater Los Angeles area, this will enable a more hands-on experience.

Both formats will give students a wonderful opportunity to explore their music making, and I’m pleased the Colburn Summer Percussion Workshop offers a significant contribution to that endeavor.

My Teaching and Performance Experience

Under my direction, our work together will be fun, informative, and based on my uniquely varied career. I’ve been extremely fortunate to perform under artists as diverse as Pierre Boulez and Aretha Franklin; toured extensively with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Pacific Symphony; recorded major motion pictures with composers such as John Williams, Randy Newman, and Michael Giacchino; played Broadway shows such as Wicked and The Lion King; and participated in numerous premieres including works by John Adams, Philip Glass, Thomas Ades, and Unsuk Chin. My teaching contains a broad perspective that is helpful in guiding each student with their particular musical journey.

Stellar Guest Artists

Students will have the opportunity to interact and learn from some of the most learned, experienced, and creative musicians working today. Collectively, the faculty and guest artists of the workshop bring an unparalleled breadth of knowledge and experience.

Christina Cheon playing a marimba

Christina Cheon

Marimba Artist, Executive Director–Southern California Marimba

An established marimba artist and educator, Christina is Executive Director of Southern California Marimba. She is also leading the way as an administrator and advocate by promoting marimba performance, education, competitions, as well as giving a voice to marimba composers of the BIPOC community.

Greg Cohen

Greg Cohen

Principal Percussion–San Diego Symphony

Holding the position of Principal Percussionist of the San Diego Symphony since 2008, Greg has also performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony. In addition, he is a highly regarded educator as head of percussion at San Diego State University.

Cory Hills

Cory Hills

Multi-percussionist, composer, and Grammy award-winning artist

Cory’s uniquely creative artistry is influenced by many different worlds, including performing as a virtuoso soloist, ensemble player, and member of the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet. Cory is also a prolific composer and his audiences range from those with a love of the avant-garde to captivated young listeners of his Percussive Storytelling.

Pete Korpela sitting at a drumset

Pete Korpela

LA based studio and touring percussionist

With his vast knowledge of percussion techniques from around the world, Pete’s performance experience includes stadium concerts with artists like Josh Groban, soundtracks for major motion pictures, Broadway musicals such as The Lion King and Hamilton, and the Academy Awards show.

Mike Packer sitting at a drumset

Mike Packer

Drum set artist/educator

In the world of drum set performance, pedagogy, curriculum and administration, Mike is a highly sought-after artist. He has played and toured extensively, worked at schools such as Los Angeles College of Music and Musicians Institute, given clinics around the world, authored texts, and developed the design for DW’s 5000ADH bass drum pedal.

Derrick Spiva Jr.

LA based composer/multi-cultural musician, Artistic Advisor–Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Representing what is possible for an artist in the 21st century, Derrick’s innovative style has received accolades around the world. His multi-cultural approach to performing, composing, and education has created a unique and innovative voice that the Washington Post recently featured in their article “21 for ’21: Composers and Performers Who Sound Like Tomorrow.”

Putting It All Together

When I was a pre-college student, there was very little available in the way of intensives. I certainly participated in festivals, master classes and the like but an intensive like the Colburn Summer Percussion Workshop would have been extremely valuable to participate in and help accelerate my development in many areas of percussion.

This camp is important to me because it gives students an opportunity to learn and grow in the arts. It’s an intrinsic element to what makes us human: to communicate, to develop a voice, to create, and to explore. Perhaps now more than ever, we realize the importance of the arts in our lives, especially with the challenges of the current pandemic. The Colburn Summer Percussion Workshop gives percussionists an opportunity to enhance the skills they’ve already developed and expose them to other avenues of musicianship and creativity. I hope you can join us this summer! Applications are due June 1.

Learn More

Submit your application for the Colburn Summer Percussion Workshop!

Want to start private lessons with Ken McGrath or with another one of our experienced faculty members? Submit your inquiry today.

Learn more about the Summer Camps at the Community School of Performing Arts.

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