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Jarvis joined the band as a fourth grader and never looked back

For Peter Jarvis, adjunct assistant professor of music, it all started in fourth grade. That's when students in his New Jersey elementary school were allowed to participate in the school band.

"I knew I wanted to join the band even before I was old enough, and I remember that I couldn't wait until I was in fourth grade," Jarvis said.

Jarvis joined the band and never looked back.

Today, Jarvis is an active percussionist, conductor, composer, copyist and educator. Extensive touring has taken him to Asia, Canada, Mexico, Russia and throughout the United States, and he has performed more than 100 premiers including works composed for him by Pulitzer Prize-winning composers Milton Babbitt and Charles Wuorinen.

At Connecticut College, Jarvis teaches percussion lessons, conducts chamber music and directs the Percussion and New Music Ensembles.

"Pete is the kind of teacher who teaches you how to fish rather than feed you fish - he not only teaches you to play better, but helps you understand music," Kiara Hwang '09 said. "I cannot remember a single lesson with Pete that was not challenging and exciting at the same time."

On Nov. 18, Jarvis performed solo in New York City, taking the stage at The Players Theatre as part of the Composers Concordance concert series. It´s an achievement that his colleagues, students and former students take great pride in.

Jarvis showcased six pieces, including three premiers, from a newly released drum set anthology. That anthology is one of three published anthologies written especially for Jarvis, one of which was commissioned by the Composers Guild of New Jersey. The other two of the anthologies were commissioned by music publisher Calabrese Brothers Music, with two more in progress.

"Through my collaborations with Calabrese Brothers, I am not only helping to create new music, but also to fill voids in the percussion repertoire," Jarvis said. "For example, there aren't many solo pieces for the Vibraphone or the Timpani."

There also aren't many solo performance pieces available for the drum set, which is beginning to make its way into the college curriculum, Jarvis said. So Calabrese Brothers Music commissioned the drum set anthology that Jarvis performed in New York.

"I really enjoy taking part in the creation of literature," Jarvis said. "I believe it is one of the more important and lasting contributions I can make to music, by creating music future percussionists can choose to play."

Working with students gives him that same satisfaction.

"I am passionate about teaching," Jarvis said. "I find it gratifying when students find a way to make some of the things we talk about relevant to their own lives. And I like watching them learn. College-aged students have loads of energy and enthusiasm, and I feed off their energy."

A composer himself, Jarvis has been known to write pieces for his students. In 2007, he composed a piece for Connor Donohue '07, then a senior at Connecticut College, called "Solo for Two Kick Drums."

"Connor had an injury and wasn't going to be able to play in his senior recital," Jarvis said. "So I wrote a piece for him that he could play entirely with his feet, using the kick drums. It was so rewarding to see Connor energized by the piece."

Kiara Hwang recently premiered "Wind Tunnel," a solo flute piece Jarvis wrote for her, and now she is returning the favor, writing a piece for the drum set for him.

"Kiara is quite a promising musician," Jarvis said. "I am honored that she is writing a piece for me."

Check out Peter Jarvis on Wikipedia, MySpace and YouTube.

-Amy Martin

December 9, 2009