Middle school percussionists win big: Wiley students top International Percussion Ensemble Contest


It wouldn’t be off base to say that Wiley Middle School’s band percussion members are the world champions of middle school percussion. 

 In an annual competition called the International Percussion Ensemble Contest, only one middle school is selected as the winner in any given year. The Percussive Arts Society (PAS), the premier organization for the promotion of percussion and percussion education, sponsors this yearly contest to search out and highlight the best scholastic percussion ensembles in the world. 

“The kids are the ones who chose to take on the contest,” Emily Tannert, Percussion Director at Wiley Middle School, said. “I told them about the extra rehearsals and the practice they would have to do at home. I didn’t even finish my spiel when they said they wanted to do it. They chose to record.”

The PAS International Percussion Ensemble Contest (IPEC) selects one middle school, two to three high schools and three to four university percussion ensembles to perform Showcase Concerts at the Percussive Arts Society International Conference (PASIC), held every November. In order to get selected, the judges select their favorite recordings among entries from around the world. 

Tannert heard that her students won the contest in late June. 

“We started rehearsing in July,” she said. “We have to have 35 minutes of music ready for the showcase.”

Unfortunately, since these recordings were created at the end of last year’s school year, the eighth-graders who were in her band last year are now in high school and are no longer eligible for the showcase. However, several of those percussionists will be attending the trip regardless.

“It’s a massive percussion competition,” Tannert said. “The biggest in the world. This is an excellent educational opportunity.” 

The Wiley students will perform Nov. 12 in Indianapolis at the largest venue in existence for percussive arts. While they are there, they will also venture out to see the Blue Man Group, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and to the renowned Giordano’s Pizza. 

“These kids have been in practicing on Saturdays, days off, after school and at home,” Tannert said. “This isn’t just something they are working on during the school day. They are super enthusiastic about this and I haven’t heard one complaint from them.”