Dickerson and Walton Percussion Ensembles Take Their Shows on the Road


Dickerson Middle School’s Percussion Ensemble had quite a holiday break late last year. Like the Hillgrove Jazz Band, the Dickerson percussionists received an invitation to travel north to play at The Midwest Clinic at McCormick Place West in Chicago. 


This was the second time the ensemble was invited to the conference; they also played in 2014. This makes Dickerson the only middle school percussion ensemble to have received multiple invitations to perform for each of the three most prestigious national music events for scholastic ensembles: The Midwest Clinic (2014, 2023), the Music For All Sandy Feldstein National Percussion Festival (2010, 2014, 2018), and the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (2019, 2022). They were also named a National Winner in the 2023 Mark of Excellence/National Percussion Ensemble Honors Project.

At the Midwest Clinic, the 38 musicians performed eight pieces representing various styles and cultures. In addition to traditional concert percussion pieces, they showed their international chops with Japanese Taiko and Brazilian Samba. They performed the world premiere of the percussion arrangement of “Someday” by Walton High School’s Orchestra Director, Perry Holbrook, which was guest conducted by Professor She-e Wu from Northwestern University. Another highlight was their performance of “Kibo” by Andrea Venet, which featured a snare solo by Colin Brewer, Walton’s Assistant Percussion Director.


While in the Windy City, the middle school students visited a few interesting places, including the Museum of Science and Industry, Adler Planetarium, 360 Chicago Observation Deck, and the Bean, and spent time walking the Magnificent Mile along the Chicago River. They got energized at the world’s largest Starbucks and saw a performance by the Blue Man Group. They ate well, too, visiting the Hard Rock Café and Chicago landmarks Ed Debevic’s and Gino’s East.

Dickerson Assistant Principal Janie Smalley joined the group and loved every minute of the trip. “I was honored to attend the Midwest Clinic this year and support our Percussion Ensembles. Watching their level of expertise and passion expressed during their performance was nothing less than extraordinary. Our students and music directors represented Dickerson Middle School and the Cobb County School District remarkably,” AP Smalley said proudly.

Scott Brown is the Assistant Band Director at Dickerson, as well as the Percussion Director at Walton. Nearly a month after taking his middle school percussionists to Chicago, he was back on the road with his high schoolers, who played at the Georgia Music Educators Association In-Service Conference in Athens, Georgia, in late January.

This was the Walton Percussion Ensemble’s first performance for the GMEA Conference and took place on January 26th at The Classic Center. They played six pieces composed between 1925 and 2022 that represented a wide range of musical styles and influences, many of which were advanced, collegiate-level compositions.


“It was truly rewarding to be able to share the experience of preparation and performing for two prestigious events with the students at both Dickerson and Walton,” said Director Brown. “Both ensembles presented truly fantastic performances, and the students were incredible ambassadors for our community and the Cobb County School District.”


Two senior students—Zachary Gorman and Sarah Clark—were featured soloists during the GMEA event. Zachary played a xylophone solo on “Xylophonia” written by Joe Green and was accompanied by John Lawless, Director of Percussion Studies at Kennesaw State University. Sarah played a marimba solo on “Marimba Spiritual,” written by Minoru Miki.

Many in the audience were brought to tears by their final piece, a stirring performance of “Thy Kingdom Come” written by Jacob Remington. The piece is Remington’s attempt to mimic the power and majesty of the last two chapters of the biblical book of Revelation, and the students’ performance concluded with a handbell choir as the last sounds of the show. It was a fitting close to a remarkable performance filled with wonder and complexity.

If readers want to see these talented Cobb percussionists perform, that opportunity is coming soon. The Dickerson and Walton Percussion Ensembles will be featured at the annual “Evening of Percussion” on April 11th at Walton High School at 7 PM. They will also perform two days later during the Southeastern Percussion Ensemble Symposium, hosted at Walton on April 13th.