A magical instrument

USF professor of music Robert McCormick will be conducting the 7th Annual Magic Marimba Festival this weekend, which will feature performing solo artists and ensembles from universities around the country.

With an extensive’background in percussion, McCormick oversees the USF Percussion Ensemble and is the founder of the festival.

It is only Marimba Festival in the U.S., McCormick said. The’two-day music event will bring’artists from all over to gather in the Music Recital Hall.

‘Last year was a very good’turnout,’ he said.

A very unique instrument, the marimba resembles a large’xylophone in appearance and can be played by up to five musicians at a time. The instrument has’45 hardwood keys and aluminum or brass pipes that give the’marimba its dark and hollow tone.

Played since the late 1800s, the unusual instrument can be found in a range of genres,’including jazz.

At the festival, ensembles will play this descendent of the African’xylophone with their own’personal styles of music for’students and members of the community.

The guest list ranges from famous marimba players like Janis Potter – solo marimba artist who has won awards and grants from various organizations – to high school ensembles.

Other visiting musicians’include students from West’Chester University, the University of Colorado and Portland State University.

There will also be a solo’appearance by professor Harvey Price, xylophone soloist and director of Percussion Ensemble at the University of Delaware.

Among several USF soloists performing are music students Preston Beebe, Zach Hale and USF alumnus percussionist and’baritone vocalist Lee Hinkle.

Hale has been playing the marimba for eight years. He has continued it at USF where he said everyone in the percussion’studio plays.

Beebe started playing marimba his freshman year of high school as well, attracted to the instrument’s sound.

‘No one really knows what the marimba is,’ he said. ‘It’s a really unique instrument.’

At the end of each’semester, the percussion students play a marimba piece for’McCormick and a small audience. McCormick picks those he thinks are ready to play in the festival.

This is Hale’s third Magic’Marimba Festival and Beebe’s fourth.

Hale said he’s made friends through the festival, but it’s a good chance to educate attendees’as well.

‘(The festival’s) very informative,’ he said. ‘They seem to get better each year.’

Admission for the Magic’Marimba Festival is free. Solo’performances will be from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday in the Music Recital Hall, Fine Arts Hall (FAH) 102.’Ensemble performances, lectures and master classes will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in the Music Rehearsal Hall, FAH 101.

Additional reporting by Emily Handy