May 3, 2013
West Chester University student Ben Andrews has been playing percussion since fourth grade, and his persistence has paid off: Andrews is the winner of the 2013 National Collegiate Solo Competition. As such, he will perform in concert with the U.S. Army Band on the West Steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., the evenings of Thursday, June 20, and Friday, June 21.
A skilled marimba player, Andrews was inspired by a musical family, adding saxophone, piano and singing to his musical repertoire while in grade school. Percussion appealed to him "ever since I was young. I wasn't able to start fourth grade band with it, but my parents bought me a drum set. Then in high school, I competed for district band and was introduced to concert percussion. I didn't start playing marimba until my second semester of college."
Andrews is a third-year transfer student from Bridgeport, Pa., pursuing a double major in music education and percussion performance. He plans to graduate in December 2014.
In addition to his coursework, he teaches piano and percussion privately and is the youth music director for Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Del. His passion, he notes, is teaching and "inspiring students to study music - and enjoy the process."
Andrews spent two years taking classes at the world-renowned Eastman School of Music. He has learned from many masters of percussion, among them such world-class performers as Valerie Naranjo (writer and first-chair marimbist for Lion King on Broadway, percussionist for SNL), Alan Abel (former principal percussionist of the Philadelphia Orchestra), Butch Ballard (drummer for Duke Ellington), and Leigh Stevens (TIME magazine's "world's greatest marimbist").
He has performed with Michael Burritt (professor at the Eastman School of Music), Chris Deviney (principal percussionist of the Philadelphia Orchestra), and Gordon Stout (Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame inductee). Andrews has played as a soloist with the Newark Symphony Orchestra and the West Chester Percussion Ensemble. He’s also performed with the Pennsylvania All-State Orchestra, at various churches across the U.S., and is regularly hired to play drum set for local musicals.
That's a long list of accomplishments for a young musician, but "Ben is one of the most self-motivated students I have encountered," says percussion professor Chris Hanning, chair of applied music in WCU's School of Music in the College of Arts and Humanities.
During his all-expenses-paid visit to Washington, D.C., Andrews will rehearse with the U.S. Army Band from Monday, June 17, through Saturday, June 22. The "Sunsets with a Soundtrack" concerts in which he is featured are at 8 p.m. that Thursday and Friday.
The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" is the Army's premier musical unit responsible for performing at national and international events in the D.C. area and around the world. Soldiers in this unit also perform final honors for funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.