Percussion ensemble: What is it?

By Peyton Cassel

Senior Caleb Breidenbaugh plays a marimba.
Senior Caleb Breidenbaugh plays a marimba.


Percussion ensemble is a group that uses marimbas, vibraphones, bells, and other keyboard instruments to rehearse and perform during the school year. Directed by Luke Helker, the ensemble plays a variety of contemporary classical music. The group has 18 members total, and its participants are Penn Manor High School students.

According to Mr. Helker, “the percussion ensemble itself is a relatively new type of performing ensemble … but has grown in popularity.” It’s resulted in an “abundance” of things to play, and focuses on “providing musicians of all ages and skills the opportunity to be exposed to a new world of contemporary chamber music.”

Despite how new percussion ensembles are, this is not Penn Manor’s first year at it.

“I actually founded the ensemble in the fall of 2012, and we had our first performance that following spring,” said Helker. “It’s taken a while for it to get up and running, but it is now functioning like a well-oiled machine.”

Helker enjoys teaching students who are eager enough to try something new and helps them learn musical “history, theory, and etiquette” to prepare them for a musical career or path they might choose in the future.

Katherine Green, a freshman in the ensemble, described it as, “a great experience to learn multiple percussion instruments.”

Musical skill or background is not required, but is recommended if you’re looking to join. Caleb Breidenbaugh, a senior in the ensemble, said, “we have several students who were not percussionists before they joined, so whether you’re an experienced percussionist or just someone who’s interested in learning the basics, there’s something here for everyone.”

While there are no openings for students to join this semester, the group will have openings available for the spring semester.

“If anyone is interested in performing with us next semester, you’re more than welcome to get in touch,” said Helker. “Not all of the music has been selected, so we can take as many interested students as possible.”
The ensemble rehearses at the high school every Thursday from 6-9 p.m. during the school year. Rehearsals are held in the band room (249).