Music Senior William Brown to Tour Europe with World Percussion Group

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

When William Brown came to USF as a new student in 2015, he had no idea how much the opportunity would change him. Now in his final semester, Brown is an accomplished percussionist who will soon be on tour in Europe with World Percussion Group, an elite group of 12 percussionists handpicked by British percussion duo Maraca2.

For three weeks, Brown will travel across the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Spain with percussionists from around the world to give clinics, masterclasses, lessons, and performances.

“When I saw this audition date coming up a year ago, I knew this was something I wanted to do,” said Brown.

The mission of World Percussion Group is to inspire audiences and provide an international platform for its artists. The 2019 European Tour includes artists from the United States, Hong Kong, Serbia, Slovenia, Denmark, Taiwan, France, and the United Kingdom.

While traveling to Portugal and Spain, the World Percussion Group will travel comfortably with their instruments aboard the P&O Cruises Azura cruise ship.

Brown first saw World Percussion Group perform in 2017. He stayed in touch with members of the group, and they helped him to prepare for his video audition, which included repertoire he developed during his undergraduate career at USF – lots of Bach, Leigh Howard Stevens' Rhythmic Caprice, Jacob Druckman’s Reflections on the Nature of Water, and even a multi-percussion piece he composed with the guidance of composer and USF visiting professor of music theory Matthew Kennedy.

Touring with the World Percussion Group isn’t the only thing Brown has on his schedule in his final semester at USF. Before the European Tour, Brown will spend his spring break with the Cincinnati Symphony.

For one week, Brown will rehearse, perform in two concerts, and record with the symphony. They will perform Edgard Varèse’s Amériques, a piece that calls for fourteen percussionists.

Brown calls Union County, Florida, a small county of about 15,000 people, his home. Upon graduating high school, he knew he wanted to study music, but getting accepted to a college music program seemed like a daunting task. He ended up getting accepted to the USF School of Music as well as the other two schools he auditioned for.

After getting to know more about the USF School of Music and the wider campus with the help of Robert McCormick, USF professor of percussion, Brown quickly began to see USF as the place for him.

“He took a whole morning and showed me around all of campus,” said Brown. “He gave me an overview of the kind of things they did, I got to sit in on rehearsals, I met his top students and they played for me and stuff. His friendliness and helpfulness in figuring out what kind of school this is was essential.”

For nearly four years, Brown studied with McCormick, who was principal percussionist with the Florida Orchestra for 20 seasons. Brown says McCormick helped him to become more aware of color as it pertains to music, calling McCormick’s sense of color “probably the most developed on the planet.”

He is also appreciative of his professor’s dedication to new music. The USF percussion studio is continuously commissioning and premiering new works. Brown says this is something not all schools do.

Brown will leave USF having performed on two such albums of new music—McCormick Percussion Group’s Kid Stuff (2018) and USF composition professor Baljinder Sekhon’s Places and Times (2018), also with the McCormick Percussion Group.

As his May graduation looms near, Brown says he will miss his friends at the School of Music, the USF Percussion Ensemble, and McCormick’s teaching. He will also miss the percussion suite he shared with his peers in the percussion studio, a space with six dedicated practice rooms and a common area for students to interact and unwind.

Brown has also built an impressive performance record during his time at USF. As a soloist, William has won the New York International Marimba Competition, placed second at the Bamberg Marimba Festival, and received second prize at the Great Plains International Marimba Competition.

He is already looking ahead toward graduate school and is always ready for new opportunities as they come.

“I will definitely be going to grad school for a master’s degree in percussion performance,” said Brown.