She walks on the stage, hands clutching drumsticks and mallets. In front of her lie five different instruments – a timpani, crash cymbals, a snare drum, bells and a xylophone. She’s expected to have full proficiency on all instruments. Facing her is a panel of three judges adjudicating her for admittance to a prestigious summer session, one of which says, ‘begin when you’re ready’. She takes a deep breath, calming her shaking hands and tense body, and begins.
Senior Nikita Jindal has been playing percussion since sixth grade. She practices privately with Drew Lang, a professor at
the Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts. In addition to playing at Texas Private School Music Educator Association (TPSMEA) All State for the past four years, she has participated in several selective summer percussion programs.
This past summer, Nikita spent three weeks at the National Youth Orchestra 2 (NYO2) program sponsored by Carnegie Hall. NYO2 offers an opportunity for musicians underrepresented in the classical music field to work with other talented musicians and world class faculty. NYO2 also offers the experience of performing in world-renowned halls; the group performs at Carnegie Hall in New York City and Kimmel Center in Philadelphia during the program.
At NYO2, held at Purchase College in New York, students take private lessons, master classes and work in ensembles to improve their musical skills. Nikita said being able to work with other musicians and taking lessons from professional faculty at NYO2 was mind-blowing.
“It was definitely one of the most influential music experiences in my life. It’s really inspirational to be around people who are so talented. It pushes you to want to work harder,” Nikita said.
Nikita’s summer musical intensives are not limited to the NYO2 program. She has participated in the Percussion Workshop at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute this past summer and the Julliard Summer Percussion Seminar the year before—both are highly selective, audition-only programs.
According to Nikita, Julliard offered a nontraditional percussion intensive. She took an Afro-Cuban percussion seminar there, while she said Tanglewood was more strenuous and pre-professional. Nikita said one of the most valuable things about these summer percussion workshops is the faculty that she works with.
“Working with faculty at Juilliard and Tanglewood was extremely frightening. There was fear for making a good first impression. At the same time, the whole atmosphere was inspiring. The faculty executed their interpretations of music flawlessly, which was kind of crazy,” said Nikita.
In addition to playing at pre-professional summer programs, Nikita also contributes to the Greenhill band. She’s the section leader for both concert band and drumline music. According to Middle and Upper School Band teacher Brian Donnell. Nikita is a natural leader for the rest of the percussion sections.
“If it’s a matter of timing, she’ll help other students with tempo and counting the beat. If it’s technique, she’ll grab the sticks and quickly show them proper technique. She helps people efficiently without being demeaning. That’s what makes her a good leader,” Mr. Donnell said.
Nikita said her passion for percussion stems from the freedom to create.
She’s able to create music with many different instruments. Whether it’s the snare drum or the timpani, the instruments will always give her a different sound, which allows her to explore further within percussion.
“That’s what makes percussion so cool. You’re not stuck to one instrument; you have the freedom to explore. Even within the instrument itself, there are so many sounds you can get just by playing it in different ways,” said Nikita.
Music is special to Nikita because it’s an alternative form of communication that gives her the ability to add personal style. Working with the sheet music allows
her to add her own interpretation and tell her story, a story that isn’t told through words.
“Music is a way to connect people without having to use words. The people that watch you perform are all coming from different backgrounds and cultures, and
they can feel what you feel through music.” said Nikita.
Originally published in the November 2017 print issue