It was a farewell to remember Friday night at the opening performance of Missouri Western’s 14th annual Extreme Percussion Show. Dr. Dennis Rogers, the director of percussion studies, will be celebrating his retirement from Western this May after 37 years of teaching, 47 years total. On Friday, not only did guests get to enjoy an energetic performance of talented percussionists, but they got to witness the incredible legacy one man has made on generations of students.
Every year the Extreme Percussion Show highlights the unique musical abilities percussionists have here at Missouri Western, whether it be the type of instrument they play or the rhythms they beat out. This year there were a variety of music styles, song selections and performances to entertain even the hardest to please at the crowded house on Friday.
The show opened with the MWSU Large Percussion Ensemble, which utilized instruments like marimbas, chimes, the triangle and the classic snare drum. There were also performances from two drum set ensembles, the MWSU drumline, the Park Hill High School Percussion Ensemble, the Mystic Dance Team, various soloists and, probably the crowd’s favorite, the Steel Pan Band.
With Deir Montiel aiding on vocals, the Steel Pan Band brought a fun Jamaican flare into the mix. The band played traditional songs to popular tunes, like “Under the Sea” and “Hot, Hot, Hot,” that left no foot untapped. Rogers even helped out on the bongos, which made the ensemble more entertaining as he cracked jokes and poked fun at the students.
Putting on this show every year is no easy task; it takes a lot of preparation, dedication and coordination between the individual percussionists.
“I would say that the show takes two semesters to truly get ready for. Between marching battery, individual groups, pan band, and all the other variety of percussion features that we put on… we have to take a lot of time to get all of that ready,” said percussionist Jack Malo.
According to Malo, this preparation comes in many forms, from a designated class that meets twice a week, to individual and group practices held on students’ personal time which are necessary for great performances.
While the percussionists did fantastic, the show this year was centered around Rogers and his retirement. But more importantly, the night celebrated the upstanding man and example Rogers has been over the years.
“He has touched so many lives in Park Hill, this region, and all over the country, whether he’s realized it or not,” said Brian Burlingame, the director of bands for Park Hill High School and former MWSU percussion student. “He has been a mentor, a friend, and a father to me, and I would not be doing what I am on a daily basis had it not been for Rogers.”
Several other former students share this same love for Rogers, and surprised Rogers with a video tribute during the show. Multi-generational alumni from across the country came together to record their personal testimonies about Rogers along with one of his famous pieces titled “Flitation.”
Nearly every testimony spoke to Rogers’ faith and guidance.
Recent graduate Jonathan Hobbs talked about Rogers’ strong faith and positive attitude within his teaching style. According to Hobbs, Rogers provided advice and real-world learning that taught him to give back after graduation rather than just take.
“Rogers has influenced generations of drummers technically, which are skills I’m still using today. But he has also influenced them spiritually towards the Lord, and that has been by far the most memorable,” said former student Jim Wagy.
When asked, Rogers’ humble response showed his true character.
“My favorite part of my time here at Missouri Western has been helping others to find and develop their love in life, building young people essentially. When you water others, you water yourself,” said Rogers.
While Rogers will surely be missed as a full-time teacher this coming fall, his legacy will not be forgotten. Still today his words of advice are being echoed by generations of students, and will for many years to come.