ISU Percussion Studio


Directed by Dr. Jonathan Sharp

Percussion ensemble

About the Percussion Studio

The Percussion Studies program at Iowa State University is dedicated to maximizing percussion education through a wide variety of performing ensembles and a closely supervised private lesson structure. Percussion Studies at Iowa State University provides students a foundation in orchestral, solo, chamber, world and jazz idioms. Percussion students have a wealth of learning opportunities including private lessons, studio classes, and clinic/masterclasses with world-class guest artists. The program provides professional-level experiences and opportunities for all students that foster growth through self-discipline, creativity, and entrepreneurship.  

The ISU percussion studio typically contains 12-16 students. All percussion majors study privately with Jonathan Sharp, assistant professor of music at ISU.

A large number of our alumni pursue graduate degrees at the nation's top music schools, and our alumni are employed as K-12 educators, in-demand freelance percussionists, and university faculty across the country.  Current and former students have marched and/or taught in the following drum corps and indoor WGI ensembles:  The Bluecoats, The Cavaliers, The Colts, Colt Cadets, River City Rhythm, Crossroads Indoor, and Music City Mystique.

Large Ensemble Experience
The percussion students all participate in the school’s outstanding ensembles. There are multiple orchestras (Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, and the Opera Orchestra), 4 wind ensembles (Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Concert Band, Campus Band), Jazz Ensembles, and many athletic bands including the renowned Cyclone Varsity Marching Band.  Members of the large ensembles (concert/wind bands, orchestra, etc.) are selected on the basis of a musical audition at the start of each semester.

Classes in Percussion
Students attend weekly studio classes where they perform in solo settings and experience lectures on topics such as practicing, interpretation, orchestral excerpts, sight-reading, instrument maintenance and repair, music business skills, and more. There are also courses in Percussion Pedagogy and Percussion Literature.

marimbadrum kit

Percussion Ensemble

The Iowa State University Percussion Ensemble, directed by Dr. Jonathan Sharp, is an integral part of the curriculum. The ISU chamber percussion experience is essential to the percussionists’ training and allows students to experience repertoire from the contemporary genres to world music and improvisation. Selections range from chamber works for three or four performers to works using large forces and many instruments.

The Iowa State University Percussion Ensemble maintains a very active performance schedule, presenting 4-6 performances each season on and off campus. The group regularly presents concert tours throughout Iowa and the Midwest, performs showcase concerts at the annual Iowa Percussive Arts Society Days of Percussion, and performs at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC). In 2018, the ISU Percussion Ensemble placed fourth in PASIC’s International University Chamber Ensemble Competition.

Sample Repertoire
Fandango 13, Michael Burritt
Metavita, Casey Cangelosi
Postludes, Elliot Cole
Chasing Infinity, Nathan Daughtrey
The Palace of Nine Perfections, Eric Ewazen
DisArchitecture, Dave Hall
Jose beFORe JOHN 5, Aurel Hollo
In The End..., Gene Koshinski
Clapping Music Variations, Glenn Kotche
Hohner, David Maslanka
Sculpture 3, Rudiger Pawassar
Dreadnought, Caleb Pickering
Bonham, Christopher Rouse
Sun, Baljinder Sekhon
Ritual Music, David Skidmore
Torched and Wrecked, David Skidmore
Extremes, Jason Treuting
Catching Shadows, Ivan Trevino
Shared Space, Ivan Trevino
Kalabash, Nigel Westlake
Trio Per Uno, Nebosja Zivkovic

Follow the ISU Percussion Ensemble

YouTube - Iowa State Percussion

Technology and Facilities


Students learn how to track, mix, edit and master percussion solo/ensemble recordings and video productions. The percussion studio owns and regularly utilizes the following audio/visual equipment:

• Pearl EM1 Malletstation
• Yamaha Stagepas 600I PA System
• Yamaha MSR400 PA Speakers
• Rode NT5 stereo pairs
• Rode NT1-A large diaphragm condenser pairs
• AKG C314 large diaphragm condenser pairs
• Sure Beta 98NT
• Sure SM57 drum set mics
• Focusrite Scarlett 18I20 Interface
• Akai EIE Pro Interface
• Alesis MultiMix 12R mixer
• Zoom 2QN-4K
• Softbox Lighting Kit

The Department of Music and Theatre also offers a minor in music technology, which can be combined with a music major degree. This program of study further prepares students for work in the creative application of computer technologies to sound synthesis techniques, programming designs for computer-based musical instruments ("virtual instruments"), development of human-computer interfaces for musical performance, and electronic music composition. This additional degree option gives students extra experience in music production and an edge over the competition for most music-related careers. Courses in the music technology program include:
• Creative Digital Music
• Computer Music Programming Design • Sound Synthesis Design for Electronic Music
• Electroacoustic Composition
• Physics of Music

Equipment and Facilities

The ISU Percussion facilities are first rate, and we are proud to offer a robust inventory of instruments for performance, rehearsal, recording, and practice. Our large rehearsal and performances spaces are wired for professional recording, and we have seven practice rooms with complete sets of gear to prepare for all rehearsals and performances. Our students have access to anything they need for standard ensemble, chamber, and solo repertoire. Highlights from our inventory include:

  • Eight concert marimbas, including three 5.0 Yamaha 5100A marimbas
  • Four vibraphones, including two custom extended-range Yamaha models
  • Three sets of timpani
  • Eight drumsets
  • Two complete sets of symphonic concert toms
  • Crash cymbals - 14 pairs
  • Suspended cymbals - 82 various types, along with a large assortment of tam-tams and gongs
  • Multiple full complements of xylophones, glockenspiels, chimes
  • Concert percussion gear – full complement of bass drums, triangles, woodblocks, temple blocks, tambourines, slapsticks, ratchets, log drums, cowbells, and various sound effects and mallets/beaters.


Percussion students study with Dr. Jonathan Sharp, Assistant Professor of Music – Percussion. 

Visit Jonathan’s faculty page to learn more.

D.M.A. University of Kentucky, 2014
M.M. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2011
B.M. Morehead State University, 2008


Each year, the Music area offers nearly $150,000 in scholarships and general awards. Students do not need to apply for a particular scholarship since the application process applies to all awards. Auditions for acceptance into the School of Music and Percussion Studio and for scholarship awards occur each February. Please visit the Department of Music and Theatre website for important dates and deadlines.

The deadline for consideration of music scholarships is in February. However, prospective students are encouraged to complete their application to the University by December 15 for full consideration of all scholarships outside the music program.

Audition Days 2021: School of Music Auditions will be held online this year.  Ready to get your application started or learn more about our online auditions? It's easy!  Just click HERE and follow the step by step process to find out more.

For your audition, you should be prepared to perform the following:

Snare Drum:
• One concert style solo or etude
• You may be asked to play a variety of PAS Rudiments in addition to your prepared material.

• Mallet keyboard solo - (preferably four-mallet marimba, but two-mallet is acceptable)
• You will be asked to play major scales (two octaves) in addition to your prepared material.

• One solo or etude
• Demonstrate knowledge of tuning drums to specific pitches

Sight-reading will be asked on concert snare drum and two-mallet keyboard.

Optional Areas (you may include the following areas, if you wish):
*Drumset: Demonstrate 2-4 styles, such as swing, various Latin styles, funk, rock.
*Rudimental: solo or etude in rudimental style

 ***You are encouraged to go beyond the scope of all- state audition music. The purpose of an audition is to demonstrate your talents, so choose literature that you are comfortable with. Examples of appropriate repertoire include solo/ensemble competition repertoire and all-state style etudes/solos.

Please contact Dr. Sharp with any questions regarding appropriate repertoire.
Dr. Jonathan Sharp, Director of Percussion Studies


ISU Percussion is proud to provide reference videos for annual Iowa all-state preparation. 






Additionally, we are proud to host an annual Instrumental All-State Day to help prepare for your audition, with live clinics and masterclasses from ISU’s outstanding music faculty.

Best wishes to you in your preparation of these etudes. You are encouraged to contact Dr. Sharp with any questions about all-state etudes/preparation:

Cyclone Solo Percussion Competition

Because of safety concerns stemming from the pandemic, the first annual Cyclone Solo Percussion Competition will take place digitally.

Register Here by Monday, February 1, 2021.

Video submissions are due by midnight on Sunday, February 14.

$15 Registration fee (information about payment is found on the Google Registration Form)

Soloists who have registered by the deadline will receive a Google Drive link to upload their video submissions via the email address provided on the registration form.


Contact the ISU Percussion Area

Feel free to directly email Dr. Sharp ( about any questions or to schedule a tour/lesson!  


Transcript or Alternate URL: 
José beFORe JOHN5 by Aurel Hollo and DisArchitecture by Dave Hall