Third Coast Percussion

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Third Coast Percussion
OriginChicago Illinois, United States
Years active2004–present
LabelsMode Records
New Focus Recordings
New Amsterdam Records
Parlour Tapes
Cedille Records
MembersSean Connors
Robert Dillon
Peter Martin
David Skidmore
Past membersOwen Clayton Condon
Anthony Calabrese
Jake Nissly

Third Coast Percussion is a Grammy Award-winning American percussion ensemble, based in Chicago, Illinois, United States.

The group, composed of Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore, specializes in new music/contemporary classical music and is known for its touring and recording activities that meld the energy of rock music with the precision and nuance of classical chamber works. Third Coast Percussion has become well known for its ground-breaking collaborations across a wide range of disciplines, including concerts and residency projects with engineers at the University of Notre Dame, architects at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, astronomers at the Adler Planetarium, and more. The ensemble enhances the performances it offers with new media, including free iPhone and iPad apps that allow audience members to create their own musical performances and take a deeper look at music.

Third Coast Percussion has been involved with the commissioning and premiere performances of many new works for percussion, including those by Augusta Read Thomas, Timo Andres, Glenn Kotche, David T. Little, Marcos Balter, Ted Hearne, Christopher Cerrone, and Donnacha Dennehy. The ensemble frequently collaborates with other musicians, ensembles, and organizations including Eighth Blackbird, Signal, the Garth Newel Piano Quartet, Hubbard Street Dance, the International Contemporary Ensemble, pianists Amy Briggs and Lisa Moore, cellists Nicholas Photinos and Tobias Werner, flautist Tim Munro, vocalist Ted Hearne, and video artists Luftwerk.

Third Coast Percussion is the Ensemble-in-Residence at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. They are the first ensemble at the University of Notre Dame to create a permanent and progressive ensemble residency program at the center. The ensemble performs multiple recitals annually as part of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center’s Presenting Series season. Third Coast Percussion assumed the position of Ensemble-in-Residence at Notre Dame in 2013.

The album Third Coast Percussion | Steve Reich won a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, becoming the first percussion group to win in a chamber music category.[1] Third Coast Percussion has released albums on the Mode, New Focus, New Amsterdam, and Cedille record labels.[2] The quartet endorses and performs exclusively with Pearl/Adams Musical Instruments, Zildjian Cymbals, Remo Drumheads, and Vic Firth sticks and mallets.


Formation and early years[edit]

In 2004, original members, Anthony Calabrese, Robert Dillon, Jacob Nissly, and David Skidmore were all percussionists with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, as well as students of Northwestern University. Along with their performance work with the ensemble, they formed a chamber percussion group that traveled throughout the Chicago area, performing at Chicago Public Schools and city colleges as an educational device. Although not using their signature title, it was from this humble engagement that the group Third Coast Percussion was created. Inspired by the strong percussion ensemble education and experience that they received at Northwestern, the group began working towards creating their own group, slowly setting themselves apart from any outside organization, in which they performed strictly chamber percussion music.

The first shows by Third Coast Percussion that were non-educational based were performed in the summer of 2005, the very first two being performed at Northwestern and the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston. In the summer of that same year, the group took a slight turn when Jake Nissly left for graduate studies at Juilliard School of music As a result, Peter Martin, a Northwestern percussionist pursuing a doctoral degree, filled the spot in the group. In addition to Nisslys departure, member Anthony Calabrese would move on to concentrate on his school-work at Northwestern at the time. Former Member Owen Clayton Condon, an alumnus from Northwestern and professor at Northeastern, would take Calabrese's place. This new and refined quartet (Condon, Dillon, Martin and Skidmore) would be the core group that would take the ensemble to the success that it has achieved today.

Rehearsing during the night at Northwestern and Northeastern University for a brief time, the group began tackling their goals as an ensemble. The unique concept of Third Coasts repertoire was something that the group developed early on, influenced by a series of restraints that they dealt with. As a young group, many of their gigs, such as performances at the Empty Bottle, were small venues with a limited amount of space to perform. This would put a restriction on the number of instruments and the type of repertoire performed by the group. These restrictions were instrumental in the selection process of the music that Third Coast performed, as well as the development of the group’s style.

On February 12, 2006, TCP played at the Neo Futurarium, a gig that turned out to break open the doors for the group. It was at this performance that they met Ethelbert Williams, now board member of TCP. Williams, an expert in marketing, was a member of the audience at this concert. Impressed with the ensembles performance, Mr. Williams decided to invite TCP to work with him. Ethelbert Williams was essential in helping to create a presentable package for the group that they could promote to the music world on a much broader scale.

Present day[edit]

Third Coast Percussion has since evolved from solely acting as an educational group associated with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, to a full-time working music ensemble, with Sean Connors assuming Condon's place in the ensemble in 2013. Today, Third Coast is considered one of the leading chamber percussion groups in the country. As champions of both contemporary music and classic percussion repertoire, the group has garnered an increasing amount of attention as an important music group through their critically acclaimed recordings, live performances, as well as their love and passion for education.

Grammy Award[edit]

Third Coast Percussion was nominated for and won a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for their album Third Coast Percussion | Steve Reich, released on Cedille Records. They are the first percussion group to win in a chamber music category. The album featured entirely music of American composer Steve Reich in honor of his eightieth birthday and received high praise from Reich himself: "When I heard the Third Coast CD of a number of my pieces...I thought, 'Wow, you know, I've never heard them this way.' You have to literally lean in to listen. Which is a very good way to listen. And the whole thing just knocked my socks off."[3] Third Coast Percussion performed music from the album at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards and were joined by jazz saxophonist Ravi Coltrane for the performance.


Third Coast Percussion has created strong ties to the community through their inspiring performances, as well as their commitment to education. Originally the purpose for TCP, the group continually makes musical outreach a very important part of their being, working in conjunction with many fine programs to help instill a sense of community wherever they perform. Third Coast has partnered with such groups as the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago’s MUSIcorps, University of Chicago Presents, Urban Gateways, and Rush Hour Concerts. They also give numerous clinics and outreach activities given both in Chicago and on tour.

Urban Gateways[edit]

Third Coast Percussion actively performs within the CPS school system through the Urban Gateways program. The Urban Gateways program delivers high quality education from leading professionals in the visual, technological and musical arts to the k-12 grades in Chicago. Their goal is to provide a well-rounded education for kids, to engage students in learning and to increase critical thinking. Third Coast has worked with this group for many years, providing master classes on the art of percussion to kids of all ages through performance of their repertoire and discussion. Their unique program offers a fun, hands on and interactive experience as they learn of the percussion world.

Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Marimba Ensemble[edit]

As part of their work with the Rush Hour Concert series in Chicago, Third Coast Percussion along with Sones de Mexico, Axiom brass and Spektral Quartet, help provide joy and high quality education within lower resourced communities such as East Garfield Park and the Back of the Yards. Through this musical collaboration, Third Coast Percussion seeks to engage the students in the study of classical music, while also enriching the communities own musical traditions. Third Coast Percussion and the Back of the Yards marimba band perform for each other, which not only acts as an engaging study for the young students, but serves as important lessons for the group as well.

Notre Dame and the ndWaves Project[edit]

As a part of TCP's work with their residency at Notre Dame, the group has initiated a project known as the nDwaves Project, in which the group along with WILCO drummer Glenn Kotche and Engineering students from Notre Dame collaborate in order to create a strong connection between the arts and the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math). As an interactive program for students located in South Bend, Indiana, the nDwaves project hopes to instill how music is connected through the science of sound. Interactive workshops, which include coloring and drawing, physics of sound classes taught by Notre Dame students, as well as specially made electronic percussion instruments for the kids to play on, are all used to make learning the STEM subjects more enjoyable and relatable by connecting them to music.

Emerging composers partnership[edit]

Established in 2013, Third Coast Percussion chooses one or more composers each year to collaborate with in the composition of a new work for percussion quartet. The winning composer(s) have the opportunity to work extensively with the ensemble by workshopping the new piece leading up to its Chicago premiere. Past winners have included Ben Hjertmann, Jonathan Pfeffer, Danny Clay, Katherine Young, Annika Socolofsky, José Martínez, Ayanna Woods, Timothy Page, Hunter Ewen and Amanda Feery.


Original music[edit]

  • Condon: Double Helix (2005)
  • Condon: Fractalia (2011)
  • Condon: Quadruple Helix (2005)
  • Dillon: Ordering-instincts (2014)
  • Martin: BEND (2016)
  • Martin: WAVES (2014)
  • Skidmore: Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities (2016)
  • Skidmore: Common Patterns in Uncommon Time (2011)
  • Skidmore: Echoes (2003)
  • Skidmore: Fanfare for a New Audience (2009)
  • Skidmore: In Contact (2006)
  • Skidmore: Ritual Music (2004)
  • Skidmore: Trying (2014)
  • Third Coast Percussion: Paddle to the Sea (2017)
  • Third Coast Percussion: Reaction Yield (2016)

Works commissioned[edit]

  • 100 different composers: RENGA:Cage:100
  • Christopher Adler: Pines Long Slept in Sunshine
  • Timo Andres: Austerity Measures (2013)
  • Marcos Balter: dark rooms (2007)
  • Matthew Barnson: Percussion Quartet (2006)
  • Mark Berger: Percussion Quartet (2006)
  • Martin Bresnick: A Message from the Emperor
  • Kirsten Broberg: Constellations (2008)
  • Christopher Cerrone: Goldbeater's Skin (2017)
  • Danny Clay: playbook (2015)
  • Adam Cuthbert: democracy looks like
  • Thomas DeLio: ...sound / shivering / silence II
  • Donnacha Dennehy: Surface Tension (2016)
  • Christopher Fischer-Lochhead: On Tenterhooks (2012-2013)
  • Ted Hearne: Thaw (2009)
  • Ben Hjertmann: Automatic Glitch (2014)
  • Ryan Ingebritsen: Improvisation in an Altered State (2013)
  • Derek Jacoby: We’ve Gotta Find It (2006)
  • Glenn Kotche: Stones Flow
  • Glenn Kotche: Wild Sound (2014)
  • Andrew McKenna Lee: Like A Sick, Breathing Tambura (2006)
  • David T. Little: Haunt of Last Nightfall (2010)
  • José Martínez: Two Questions About Time (2017)
  • Marc Mellits: Gravity (2013)
  • Otto Muller: Escoria (2010)
  • Anthony Pateras: Lost Compass (2010)
  • Jonathan Pfeffer: Jonathan was killed in battle against the Philistines
  • Christopher Preissing: Point Line Space I: Sticks and Stones
  • Annika Socolofsky: bellow (2017)
  • Stephen Syverud: Snow Creatures
  • Augusta Read Thomas: Resounding Earth (2012)
  • Augusta Read Thomas: Selene
  • Augusta Read Thomas: Wonderful Things! (Tomorrow Sings with Hope)
  • Aaron Travers: Deep Carving (2006)
  • Dmitri Tymoczko: Röckdöts (2013)
  • Katherine Young: just water, no lemon (2017)


Original Albums

  • Ritual Music (2008) [4]
  • John Cage - The Works for Percussion, vol. 2 (2012)[5] [6] [7] [8]
  • Resounding Earth (2013)[9] [10]
  • Haunt of Last NightFall (2014)[11] [12]
  • Unknown Symmetry (2013)[13]
  • Third Coast Percussion | Steve Reich (2016)[14]
  • Phillipe Manoury - Book of Keyboards (2017)[15]
  • Paddle to the Sea (2018)[16]

Albums featuring Third Coast Percussion

  • Lei Liang - Luminous (2016)
  • Jeff Herriott - The Stone Tapestry (2017)
  • David T. Little, Third Coast Percussion - Haunt of Last Nightfall (2014)
  • *AND (Various Artists) Thaw - Ted Hearne (2013)
  • Augusta Read Thomas: Of Being is a Bird (2016)
  • Augusta Read Thomas: Astral Canticle (2015)
  • Augusta Read Thomas: Ritual Incantations (2017)
  • Devonté Hynes - Fields (2019)[17]


  1. ^ Czajka, Kelley. "Alumni percussion ensemble wins a Grammy". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  2. ^ Margasak, Peter (December 26, 2013). "Our Favorite Music of 2013". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
  3. ^ "Interview with Steve Reich". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  4. ^ "Third Coast Percussion - Ritual Music". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  5. ^ "John Cage - The Works for Percussion, vol. 2". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  6. ^ "The best(and worst) opera and classical music of 2012". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Review:Third Coast Percussion, John Cage "The Works for Percussion 2"". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Album: John Cage, The Works for Percussion (2 Mode)". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Resounding Earth".
  10. ^ "Ringing in the New". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  11. ^ "David T. Little:Haunt of Last NightFall". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  12. ^ "Classical Playlist: George Antheil, Haydn, Sibelius and More". Artsbeat.blogs.nytimes. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  13. ^ "Unknown Symmetry". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  14. ^ "Reich: Mallet Quartet, Sextet, Nagoya Marimbas & Music for Pieces of Wood". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Third Coast Percussion/Philippe Manoury: The Book of Keyboards, by Third Coast Percussion". New Focus Recordings. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  16. ^ "Paddle to the Sea - Third Coast Percussion". Third Coast Percussion. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  17. ^ Strauss, Matthew (August 20, 2019). "Blood Orange Announces New Classical Music Album Fields". Pitchfork. Retrieved August 21, 2019.

External links[edit]