By JENNIFER MEIER
DUNLAP — As Concord Schools percussion specialist Ben Runkel sees it, “Groove” is well on its way to being one of the most popular annual events of this area.
And there are 19 high schoolers, and almost 800 others who agree with him.
“Groove” is a high-energy percussion show that features the talents of 19 Concord High School students, as well as several singers, a bass and electric guitar player and part of the school’s hip hop dance group that placed first last year in a national competition.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for a 75-minute show beginning at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Concord Junior High School. Tickets, costing $7 each, are on sale at the high school music office or by calling 574-875-4105.
“We’ve been close to selling out for the last two years,” Runkel said. “The venue seats 800. I think we had around 750 last year.”
When Runkel hired on as the percussion specialist four years ago, the music section put on a concert for a small group of parents and friends.
But Runkel saw potential for something much bigger.
“We did something like this in the Chicago neighborhood where I grew up,” Runkel said. “So that’s where I drew my inspiration from. I added my own twists — and it’s improving every year.”
Runkel’s vision includes showcasing individual and group talent as well as a variety of musical styles.
“We’ve got classical and jazz pieces, as well as contemporary, funk, Caribbean and Latin, with some humor — slapstick stuff — thrown in,” Runkel said.
The percussionists use different types of drums and keyboards throughout the program.
“We are using a steel pan this year,” Runkel said. “And there’s a piece where the students create a unique sound by using the drum heads only.”
But “Groove” isn’t only about the percussion sound.
“There’s a lot of energy — almost sensory overload,” Runkel said. “From the time you walk in to the time you leave, you have tons of things thrown at you — one cool thing after another.”
Some of that high energy and sensory overload is provided by all the equipment Runkel brings in to fill the stage.
“We transform the cafetorium into an incredible venue for a concert. I want it to have that ‘rock concert’ feel,” Runkel said. “We rent of lot of lighting. We have video screens with pre-recorded and live video. It’s truly a multimedia experience.”
Runkel said he’s found that this style of entertainment appeals to people of all ages.
“The young kids love it and so do the grandparents,” Runkel said. “You walk away thinking, ‘I never knew percussion could sound like that.’”
Since mid-December the percussion group has been practicing each day.
“I’ve worked with some of the students since they were freshman. They are improving every year and reaching a cool point where they’re taking over the show, making it their own,” Runkel said. “That’s what I want. That’s my original vision.”
Although it’s challenging, Runkel is constantly thinking of ways to top the previous year’s show.
“Each year we take a step forward,” Runkel said. “I see this getting big. I don’t want to just limit it to the community. Once word gets out, I see multiple shows that attract folks from other communities and other states.”