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Annual percussion day hosted by retiring percussion professor

On April 1, 2023, David Eyler hosted his last Percussion Day at Concordia College. This 31-year annual event hosts prospective students from local high schools, current students, and a vast array of alumni all coming together to support percussion day activities and Eyler’s last year at Concordia College before retirement.  

Eyler has been involved with music at Concordia before he even landed a full-time teaching gig at the college. He worked at the time for the Tri-College program and taught Percussion at Minnesota State University – Moorhead, North Dakota State University and at Concordia College. In one of his first years of teaching, the dean of North Dakota State University recommended that he create an event to promote and celebrate percussion performers. Eyler took the idea and gathered funds from each of the three schools to host the first-ever percussion day around 30 years ago.  

During the event during the day at the 2023 Percussion Day, numerous percussion ensembles play. This includes groups like the Moorhead High School Drum Line, Lisa Rogers, and other guest artists. These special guests lead clinics and panels that the registered participants can attend. At 4 p.m., a group concert featured Concordia Percussion Ensemble, Marimba Choir, Viva Marimba, and the Concordia/Tri-College University Alumni Percussion Ensemble. Then in the evening, a performance open to all members of the public featured the famous Heartland Marimba Quartet.  

The Heartland Marimba Quartet started at a six-day music festival at Iowa State University turned into a largely popular traveling company. The original company is Heartland Marimba, but showcased across the country as various ensembles and quartets to enrich the world in the advancement of Marimba music.  

Sam Deneen performs at the annual percussion day on April 1, 2023. | Rachel Hauschildt

Eyler conducts the planning of guest artists at least a year in advance. Many people come from all over the upper Midwest and Canada to participate.  

“Last year we were a little smaller because it was the first year after Covid, but before that we were averaging about 200 to 500 hundred people every year,” said Eyler.  

The event started in 1987. With flooding and COVID–19 getting in the way, Eyler would have had 36 consecutive years running the percussion day in the tri-college area.  

At this time, he also started a percussion ensemble for students to join from all three colleges called the Marimba Choir Since Concordia College had the most instruments available and the space, Concordia hosted this ensemble for the tri-college until Elyer was offered a full-time position at Concordia. This Marimba Choir became a solely Concordia College offered ensemble.  

In 2006, Eyler also helped form a community marimba group called, Viva Marimba. Both of these groups play at percussion day. Eyler said, “This will probably be their last concert.”  

With Eyler retiring this year, many changes will be occurring for both him and the percussion program.  

Tristan Byer is a senior in the Instrumental Music Education program. He has been the percussion ensemble all four years and is currently serving as the student manager.  

“It’s funny how I ended up in percussion because my parents ended up taking me to this event when I was a kid,” said Byers. Both of his parents went to Concordia and although they were not involved with percussion, their friends were, so they would take him and see their old classmates at Percussion Day.  

He said, “It is this cool full-circle moment.”

Percussion Day is an annual event. | Rachel Hauschildt

As the manager, he is responsible for calculating how many instruments they need to pull off the alumni concert. With the vast amount of alumni returning for the final percussion day, he noted that it was quite a headache of tracking down all the instruments they needed.  

Sam Deneen, a sophomore is heavily involved with the music department. He is going to miss having Eyler as his professor and mentor. For percussion day, Deneen said, “Just the whole scope of being part of a historical event of after 31 years of going on.” 

He’s hopeful that whoever takes on the position next year will continue the percussion day tradition.  


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