Participants from the Sō Percussion Summer Institute 2017
Sō Percussion is a percussion-based music organization that creates and presents new collaborative works to adventurous and curious audiences and educational initiatives to engaged students, while providing meaningful service to its communities, in order to exemplify the power of music to unite people and forge deep social bonds.
To create a new model of egalitarian artistic collaboration that respects history, champions innovation and curiosity, and creates an essential social bond through service to our audiences and our communities.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility
Sō Percussion, Inc. is examining how our organization can further our work within Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA), and advance antiracist efforts. We are programming a diverse range of voices, commissioning flexible new works, and re-imagining educational programs. We are also convening and participating in advisory groups to learn more about how we can have a positive impact on our community, industry, and art form.
Here are the initiatives the organization is currently pursuing. Some are new, some represent a continuation of ongoing projects.
- New Work Development Program – Flexible Commissions. Flexible instrumentation pieces in our lineage go back at least as far as Terry Riley’s In C. They provide for a model of collaboration which removes barriers of access to performers and composers and which encourage bringing many voices into the room. This year, Sō Percussion is commissioning Darian Thomas, Bora Yoon, and Kendall Williams as part of our New Work Development program to write new “flexible” pieces which can be premiered remotely, but which we will also perform with various groups once live concerts have returned. These pieces will allow us to invite a diverse cohort of performers into the collaborative process with Sō Percussion.
- New interpretations by Sō Percussion of past works written by composers of underrepresented genders, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ identities. This includes a deep dive into the incredible work of Pauline Oliveros, our first interpretation of Julius Eastman’s Stay On It, and many other pieces by past and living composers.
- The formation of several new groups to advise the organization. This includes a panel of consultants who will advise Sō’s staff and board of directors. We have also been participating in outside peer groups such as the newly formed New Music Equity Action group.
- Examining our education programs. We are permanently removing application fees for all of our festivals. Beginning with this year’s inaugural So Percussion Collaborative Workshop, we are exploring how changing from fixed tuition to a “pay what you can” model and offering extensive scholarships can lower barriers of access. In addition, we are planning to broaden our festivals’ missions to embrace more practices and musical backgrounds beyond what SōSI has included in the past.
- Re-inventing the intern program. Sō’s intern program has been restructured as a compensated program. Interns will also participate a rotation of mentoring in both artistic and administrative areas. Sharing of studio space will resume once pandemic conditions subside.
- New partnerships with Black-led organizations and musicians in our Brooklyn community. Coming out of the International Residency trip to Trinidad and Tobago for Panorama 2020, we are deepening relationships with steel bands in Brooklyn to find opportunities for collaboration and exchange. To begin with, Sō is providing service as a fiscal sponsor to non-profits who support the steel drum community.
- Expand So Percussion’s Board of Directors and staff to include a more diverse range of voices.
One of the first things any group needs is a name. When our group was founded in 1999, we cast far and wide among our friends and family for suggestions. The winner was this simple, short word offered by Jenise Treuting, Jason’s sister. Jenise has been living and working in Japan as an English-Japanese translator for 20 years. The word “Sō” was punchy, enigmatic, and memorable.
“The Sō in Sō Percussion comes from 奏, the second character in the compound Japanese word 演奏 (ensou), to perform music. By itself, so means “to play an instrument.” But it can also mean “to be successful,” “to determine a direction and move forward,” and “to present to the gods or ruler.” Scholars have suggested that the latter comes from the character’s etymology, which included the element “to offer with both hands.” 奏 is a bold, straightforward character, but lends itself to calligraphy with a certain energy that gives so a springy, delicate look.”
– Jenise Treuting