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Timpani Mallets

Walton: Partita for

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin, Conductor

Bartok: Sonata for
Two Pianos and Percussion

Timpani Concerto No. 1


The Planets

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Peter Oundjian, Conductor

Appalachian Spring

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin, Conductor

Piano Concerto No. 1
Conrad Tao
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin, Conductor
October 11, 2013

Ferran Cruixent: Cyborg
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin, Conductor
November 7, 2013

Indiana University
Percussion Ensemble
Youtube videos

Zildjian Score Magazine
John Tafoya

Arizona Musicfest

Archival recordings:
Robert Moody, Conductor


Bloomington Herald Times, October 22, 2018

"IU Percussion Ensemble director John Tafoya told me during Sunday intermission that the
14 musicians on the Auer stage were only half of what the department can claim. He
identified a number of them as freshmen. And let me tell you, what these students
accomplished was quite something. The levels of talent run deep and high.

The seven pieces of music selected required combinations of two, four (mostly), and five.
The sounds produced were either predominantly drumbeat loud or marimba sweet. In either
case, the demands were often fiendish and the results splendid.

Most unusual, or unexpected, was an arrangement for marimbas by John Tafoya of the Lent
movement from Maurice Ravel's String Quartet in F Major. How could that work, you might
ask. Well, it did, beautifully.

Of very different nature was Australian composer Nigel Westlake's "Moving Air," during which
the quartet of drummers, augmented by taped sounds of glass breaking and garbage
cans colliding, are told to "Play it loud." Loud they played, with exclamation points. The
drum playing also was breathtaking.

Pulitzer Prize winner Christopher Rouse gifted his "Ogoun Badagris" with Haitian mood,
meant to approximate a drum-driven voodoo ritual featuring appeasement of the gods
through human blood and possession. Again, the drums were dominant, but ever so

And again, the contrast from American composer Lane Harder's "Durufle Variations," four
movements for marimba quartet, each based on a theme from an organ work of Maurice
Durufle. And again, the fractured sound of drums in Owen Clayton Condon's "Fractalia";
Christopher Deane's "Vespertine Variations" for marimbas, inspired by bird flight formations
the composer studied over the University of North Texas campus, and French composer and
percussionist Emmanuel Sejourne's "Departures," a passionate duo for marimba.

The playing on Sunday was a pleasure to experience, set of players after set of players."

Bloomington Herald Times, April 12, 2012

"A Concerto for Timpani by the British composer Gordon Jacob brought Percussion
Department chair John Tafoya to stage front. He mined all the possibilities, making those
expressive drums do his bidding. The opening and closing Allegro movements contain every
sort of fast and furious challenge; Tafoya not only handled them masterfully but brought
forth distinct musical developments, as sought by Jacob. The middle movement, an Adagio,
proved stirringly solemn, like a tribute to a fallen hero, quite memorable."

Bloomington Herald Times, March 28, 2012

"That, in fact, is an always-there reward for coming to a Percussion Ensemble concert. The
musicians are excellent. They are versatile, and they combine, from composition to
composition, into constantly shifting configurations, somehow always managing to end up
handling their chosen music like seasoned chamber music pros. Yes, chamber music pros."

Bloomington Herald Times, March 30, 2011

"The four works that constituted the concert were all of 21st century vintage, with the big
sound items chosen to open and close and the more calming ones spread across the middle.
The whole of the affair took just under an hour, but for this listener's ears, that was enough
music to take in and enough to show what ensemble directors John Tafoya and Kevin Bobo
have managed to accomplish with these talented young practitioners of percussion."

Bloomington Herald Times, April 22, 2009

"One marvels watching and listening to these young musicians, as they move in shifting
assignments from instrument to instrument. Director John Tafoya and co-director Kevin
Bobo have raised the level of their performances dramatically, so that they work not only
as crackerjack soloists but as members of integrated teams."

Bloomington Herald Times, October 23, 2008

"Always amazing to watch while attending a concert by the IU Percussion Ensemble is the
dexterity that its members exhibit, the dexterity along with the command they have over a
vast array of instruments.

Tafoya himself provided one item, a lush arrangement for marimbas and such of the second
movement from Ravel's F Major String Quartet. Since the composer sought in the original
version of that movement to suggest the sound of a gamelan orchestra, Tafoya had a head
start. His development of the music's atmospheric lyricism was true to essence, and the
players treated the piece with technical dazzle and respect to temperament."

Bloomington Herald Times, November 14, 2007

"Tafoya made an appearance Monday evening at a concert by the ensemble in Auer Hall. He
conducted an impressively complex concoction for 13 players called "Phage," written in
1999 by Patrick Muchmore."

The Washington Post, May 31, 2002

"The "Burleske" combines great, gasping, haunted-house shudders for the piano with
inventive and muscular orchestration. Ax gave a brilliant and jovial reading of the piano part,
and the NSO provided wonderfully nimble support. Orchestra and pianist deserved their
standing ovation, and it was gracious of Ax to insist on calling out the group's agile
timpanist, John Tafoya, to share the glory."

The Washington Post, January 25, 2002

"While the noise-making -- a booming organ that shook the floors, wiry pianism, sonorous
timpani -- was splendid . . ." [Saint-Saens: Organ Symphony]

The Allentown Morning Call, April 24, 2001

"Expert timpanist John Tafoya presided over five copper kettles that he hit with all kinds of
different sticks and mallets. But it wasn't all drum noise. There was a lovely slow movement,
when you could actually hear a melody intoned on those different drums, and there was a
splendid cadenza that Tafoya improvised himself."
[Russell Peck: "Harmonic Rhythm" Timpani

The Washington Post, September 20, 1999

"Also worth mentioning is the [National Symphony] orchestra's new principal timpanist John
Tafoya, who held a fascinating dialogue with Ohlsson in the cadenza of the [Beethoven]
Violin Concerto transcription."

Sun-Sentinel, November 4, 1998

"The [Florida] Philharmonic responded eloquently. Particularly expressive efforts by flutist
Jeanne Tarrant and timpanist John Tafoya added to the success."

Sun-Sentinel, April 16, 1998

"In Strauss' Burleske, Steuerman again offered plenty of finesse . . . The inventive, high-
profile timpani part was superbly played by John Tafoya."

Sun-Sentinel, September 20, 1997

"The woodwinds and brass were now quite cohesive and incisive; the strings articulated
vividly, never flagging in the relentless finale [Beethoven Symphony No. 7]. John Tafoya
made the most of every timpani outburst."

Sun-Sentinel, July 21, 1997

"The Scherzo [Beethoven 9] had an electric charge that made up for any rough edges in
execution. (Timpanist John Tafoya was, as throughout the Festival, invaluable here)."

Palm Beach Post, November 21, 1996

"The orchestra' s opening rendition of Beethoven's Egmont Overture (Op. 84, 1910) was
extraordinary. The string section's sound was more powerful and more thoroughly convincing
than ever. Fine work also was done throughout the night in the French horn and clarinet
sections and especially by timpanist John Tafoya."

Sun-Sentinel, May 25, 1996

"There was a darkly burnished quality to the string tone, a rich coloring to the winds and
brass, the usual incisiveness from timpanist John Tafoya."

Arts Indiana, November, 1991

"The timpanist in the Kaufmann [timpani concerto], John Tafoya, had technique to burn and
used it to elicit an impressive array of sounds from his four flawlessly tuned drums."

The Denver Post, July 11, 1987

"Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber included well-
executed lines and musicality in this showy piece, the best classical representation of the
evening. Tympanist John Tafoya had a chance to display his enthusiasm for the instrument in
the second movement, when he brought back the theme in an energetic splash."

The Herald-Telephone, January 31, 1985

"Tafoya managed to get good dynamic variation from the timpani and had a good sense of
the rhythmic phrase. In the last movement he played many rapid notes that were never lost
in a muddle but sounded clearly and individually in spite of the speed."

The Herald-Telephone, October 10, 1985

"Special note should be given to the timpanist, John Tafoya, who already demonstrated his
virtuosic talents in the Percussion Ensemble's recital Monday night. There have been too
many concerts in the last year when the timpani exploded more like vaguely pitched canons
than musical instruments. But Tafoya knew how to coax rather than beat the sound out of
his kettle drums and the result was a full, resonant sound that contributed richly to the
texture and rhythmic life of the symphony."