This month is Music in our Schools, and last week many middle and high school band classes were visited by a talented and charismatic percussion trio from Los Angeles. Colburn Beat! is from the Colburn Conservatory of Music and includes Jimmy Chan, Pat Chapman and Greg LaRosa.

The trio came to Bellingham through the Play it Forward Residency, a partnership between the Bellingham Festival of Music and the Whatcom Symphony. Each year a group of performers from Colburn come to Bellingham to perform for local students and spark their interest in classical music.

The artists had a packed schedule, visiting classrooms at Fairhaven, Kulshan and Whatcom Middle Schools, and Bellingham, Squalicum and Options High School, as well as schools in the Ferndale, Nooksack and Mount Baker School districts.

The trio tailored each session to the classroom and grade level, and explored minimalist percussion using little to no actual instruments.

For example, Chan performed a piece using no instruments but himself, merging performance, drama and beats. LaRosa played on wood blocks purchased at a local hardware store. The trio also performed Clapping Music by Steve Reich, a minimalist piece that is performed entirely by clapping, and invited students to clap along.

In one session LaRosa asked the class to try to identify how many sounds could be made on a snare drum. “27!” guessed one student.  (They went through each sound with the class and found at least 16.)

Students were allowed ample time for questions, “What’s the difference between a xylophone and a marimba?” (The marimba has a larger range.)

The week culminated in a special concert at Options High School on Friday, March 16.

For more information on the residency and trio, visit

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