By JOHN KLINE
GOSHEN — Stand and deliver? Not this time.
After 10 years of presenting a more traditional, stationary performance style during competitions, the Goshen High School Crimson Percussion Ensemble is heading down to state finals in Indianapolis this Saturday with the goal of really shaking things up.
Considered a “World Class” ensemble — the highest class ranking available to percussion ensembles — the Crimson Percussion Ensemble has been competing at the top of its game for nine of the last 10 years.
“With percussion, you’re classed by skill set, not by the size of your school or how many are in the group, so you could be in A Class, Open Class or World Class,” said Tom Cox, director of bands for Goshen High School. “We started in A Class, which is not the highest class you can compete in. But after we went to our first show, the judges said we should be in Open Class. So they promoted us, which is a more advanced skill set, where you’ve basically maxed out Class A.”
Determined to continue their upward climb, the group continued to turn out one exemplary performance after another, soon earning themselves another promotion, this time to the top tier World Class designation.
“We’ve always done things a little differently, so our shows were always super-entertaining with these crazy arrangements,” Cox said. “So nine years ago we ended up competing at World Class status, and we’ve been World Class ever since.”
Over the course of those 10 years in competition, Cox noted that the one thing that never really changed with the group was its overall performance style, which he coined the “concert” ensemble style.
“For the last 10 years we were a concert ensemble,” Cox said, “meaning we didn’t move around, and basically we just did a lot of mallet percussion.”
Then, at the end of last year, the school hired Derrick Shannon to be the ensemble’s new leader. Celebrated by his peers in the music world as a “percussion specialist” Shannon immediately saw the potential for something new and different in his charges, and soon the idea for a “movement” percussion group took hold.
“This is his first year with Goshen Schools, and he has a lot of experience doing the movement percussion ensembles, which is where you have drill, you have a tarp, you have uniforms... it’s basically marching band without the wind instruments and guard,” Cox said of Shannon. “He has a lot of expertise in that area, and he thought ‘lets start something new’, so we started our first ever movement percussion ensemble this year, and it really got everybody excited.”
And that excitement appears to have paid off, as the Crimson Percussion Ensemble is currently ranked second in the state, lagging only 1.3 points behind the number one ranked Decatur Central High School ensemble heading into the state finals this Saturday — an ensemble which, interestingly enough, just happens to be directed by Cox’ identical twin brother, Tim.
“We’re feeling really good about the competition,” Cox said. “Regardless of what happens, its been a great year. Our goal is to finish in the top three, so I’ll really be interested to see what happens this weekend. Last year, the number two group won, so I don’t know. But I think we certainly have a shot.”
The Crimson Percussion Ensemble will compete for its chance at the state title at 7:20 p.m. Saturday at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis.