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Crane School of Music Alumni From Around Globe Return to Celebrate Percussion Professor Jim Petercsak
SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor James Petercsak has been teaching percussion at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music for 50 years. In honor of this major academic milestone, alumni are traveling from across the country and around the globe to take part in a special upcoming concert recognizing the professor’s legacy.
A tribute concert for Petercsak will be held on Saturday, March 17 at 7:30 p.m., in the Sara M. Snell Music Theater. This event is free, and the public is invited to attend.
“The Crane School of Music is pleased to welcome devoted alumni to celebrate SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Jim Petercsak’s 50th teaching anniversary. This is a major milestone, and we all look forward to honoring Jim’s many achievements at this very special concert,” said Dean Michael Sitton.
More than 70 alumni are set to return to campus for the performance, which was organized by John Bird ’00 and Ashley Trudell ’17. The two alumni spent a year reaching out to hundreds of other graduates to put together the event.
“We have one alum coming in from Australia! We also have alumni coming from Canada, California, Arizona, Texas, the Carolinas, Virginia, all corners of the Northeast, and of course from New York. Performers’ and supporters’ class years range all the way from Professor Petercsak’s first year at Crane, to current freshmen,” Trudell said.
Trudell said she was thrilled to be able to help honor Petercsak, whom she and other “Percussion Alley” alumni simply call “JP.”
“Words alone can’t describe the difference that JP’s influence has left on me. His mentorship has not only helped define my career, but has left a lasting impact on my life,” she said.
The concert program will include percussion ensemble works by Steve Reich, Christopher Rouse, Scott Harding, Anthony Krof and Murray Houllif. There will be performances of compositions and arrangements by Crane alumni Thomas Marceau ’99, Nick Mancini ’96 and Joe Abbatantuono ’98.
Members from the Crane Wind Ensemble will also perform percussion-centered work by Edgar Varèse. The program will conclude with a large ensemble piece where anyone interested in performing can join in.
The alumni also have some special surprises in store to honor Petercsak at the concert. Following the event, there will be a large reception in the Knowles Conference Center for guests to stop by and reminisce with the percussion professor and his students.
“If you want to see a true reflection of the difference JP has made, you have to look where his students ended up to see the overall impact. There are Crane percussionists teaching on multiple continents. They have students ranging from preschool age all the way through college level. They have doctorates in the field. They are on-demand performers. They are playing professionally on tour, in theaters, in stadiums, in concert halls and recording in the studio. They are published composers and arrangers. They are school administrators and advocates for the arts. They are working in music industry, defining how the business works. They are CEOs of some of the largest music companies in the world. His high expectation for excellence pushed us all to find our true callings,” Trudell said.
For those who cannot attend in person, this concert will be broadcast live on the Crane School of Music YouTube channel at the performance time. To view the program and see other upcoming streaming performances, visit www.potsdam.edu/academics/Crane/streaming.
The organizers are raising funds to support a scholarship in Petercsak’s honor. Donations will be accepted at the concert. Gifts can also be made online, at https://secure.potsdam.edu/giving. Please enter “James Petercsak Percussion Scholarship” in the memo field when making a donation.
About the honoree:
James Petercsak has led the percussion program at The State University of New York at Potsdam’s Crane School of Music since 1968, where he directs the award-winning Crane Percussion Ensemble. He has held the rank of SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor since 1991, longer than any other active music professor in the State University of New York.
Petercsak is internationally recognized as a performer, educator, clinician and music industry visionary. During his career, he has prepared several hundred students for careers in all aspects of the music industry. His former students teach at over 20 different college and universities, direct many leading high school music programs in the nation, work as performers, composers, conductors and hold top management positions in the music products industry. At The Crane School of Music, Petercsak has conducted the Crane Percussion Ensemble for over 40 years, including concerts in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City, as well as on annual tours of New York State. In addition, Petercsak directs studio instruction and ensemble preparation for more than 30 undergraduate percussion students.
As a performer, Petercsak is the rare percussionist who is equally adept in both the classical and jazz repertoire. He has performed as orchestral timpanist and percussionist with top names such as Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, the American Symphony with Leopold Stokowski, the New Jersey State Opera with conductor Alfredo Silipigni, the New York City Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre.
As a jazz drummer-percussionist, he has performed during four decades with many of the great entertainers of our time, a list that includes Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughn, Dame Cleo Laine, Nancy Wilson, Della Reese, Carol Channing, Liza Minelli, Lisa Vroman, Shirley Bassey, Dionne Warwick, Mitzi Gaynor, Billy Ekstine, Jack Jones, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, George Benson, Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Vic Damone, Jerry Vale, Glenn Campbell, George Burns, Sergio Franchi, Trini Lopez, Liberace, Jimmy Roselli, Henry Mancini, The Four Seasons, The Supremes, Rosemary Clooney, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme, Pearl Bailey and Louie Bellson, among others.
Petercsak has played at many of the major venues in the U.S. For 26 years, he was the principal percussionist at the Garden State Arts Center, and has also performed at Wolf Trap, the Heinz Theatre, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Lincoln Center, many of the Catskills resorts and on Boston Common.
As a clinician, Petercsak has performed and presented throughout the United States, as well as in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, Italy, Norway, Belgium, Poland, Austria and Brazil. He has numerous publications, articles and presentations at national and state conferences and most recently led New York State Day of Percussion presentations in Syracuse and Binghamton, N.Y., as well as the Canadian gathering at the Université de Montréal.
Petercsak endorses and plays Yamaha Percussion and Sabian cymbals. In addition, he has served as a music industry consultant to Sabian Ltd., Yamaha Corp. of America, Zildjian, Samson Technologies Corp., Time Warner Music, Custom Music and QuasiProd Ltd.
With deep ties to music industry, Petercsak was instrumental in establishing the Crane Institute for Music Business and Entrepreneurship. He coordinates the format and the planning of the Sandy Feldstein Music Business Roundtable each year at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, Calif., taking place each January, an event hosting 100,000 musicians and industry representatives from around the world.
Petercsak has been a key figure in the Percussive Arts Society for the past four decades. He served as the president of PAS from 1977 to 1982, and conceived the Percussive Arts Society International Conference, which has showcased the percussion world for the last 35 years. The show annually draws 7,500 percussionists from around the globe. Petercsak was the executive director of the convention for eight years and was most proud to present the show in NYC in 1981. In 2003, PAS honored Petercsak with its Lifetime Achievement Award in Education. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Manhattan School of Music in 2010.
About The Crane School of Music:
Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures and concerts presented by faculty, students and guests each year. The Crane School of Music is the State University of New York’s only All-Steinway institution. For more information, visit www.potsdam.edu/crane.