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University of Iowa News Release

May 9, 2003

UI Percussionists Will Honor Former Professor In Biennial Concert May 17

University of Iowa percussion faculty member Dan Moore and the UI Percussion Ensemble will be joined by Dick Sisto, a renowned vibraphone performer, when they present the Thomas L. Davis Percussion Concert, honoring the former UI percussion teacher, at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 17 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

This will be the fourth biennial concert presented in honor of the former UI percussion instructor, marching band director and jazz studies head since Davis' retirement in 1996. Admission to the concert will be free, but contributions will be solicited for the Thomas L. Davis Percussion Award, a scholarship established in Davis' honor through gifts to the University of Iowa Foundation.

Moore, who succeeded Davis to become only the second percussion faculty member in the history of the UI, commented: "Thomas L. Davis was the first professor of percussion at the UI, and every other year we get together to celebrate this great man's 38 year career here at Iowa.

"The concert is only part of the fun. We always try to use the opportunity to increase the endowment of the Thomas L. Davis Percussion Award, which provides nearly $1000 in support to UI percussion majors each year. We do this by making the concerts as memorable as possible, and this year we have cooked up a sure winner with our guest artist, Dick Sisto.

"We will, of course, also feature Davis's music. The ensemble will be performing a few of his classic compositions for percussion including 'Londonderry Aire' and 'Overture to a Tired Old Warhorse Eating Chestnuts in a Burning Barn.' We will also celebrate the release of our new CD, 'Take Me To Your Leader: Percussion music of Thomas L. Davis,' which will be released the day of the concert!"

The Thomas L. Davis Percussion Award was established in 1996 through the efforts of Davis' friends, family and former students. The fund supports two awards each year: the Thomas L. Davis Freshman award, given each fall to help an outstanding first-year percussion student purchase equipment and music necessary for successful percussion study; and the Thomas L. Davis Upperclassman Award, given each spring to an outstanding upperclassman student who has consistently served the percussion area over and above the call of duty. The upperclassman award is designed to help offset the considerable costs associated with preparation of the senior recital.

Davis was born in Casper, Wyo. He received bachelor's and master's degrees from Northwestern University. While at Northwestern he helped to create the percussion ensemble with the Percussion Pops Orchestra, of which he was a founding member. In 1958 he was a performer and arranger on the seminal percussion recording of the period, "Music for Bang, Baroom, and Harp."

Davis joined the faculty of the UI School of Music that year, becoming one of the first percussion professors in the country. Over the next 38 years he was percussion-area head and director of the UI Percussion Ensemble. He was also director of the Hawkeye Marching Band and head of the Jazz Studies program, which he originated. His former students include performers, educators, school of music deans and directors, and professionals in a variety of other fields.

A native of Chicago, Sisto worked his way up through the professional jazz ranks from his days at Notre Dame High School, which also produced jazz pianists Jim McNeely and Al Pheeney, and trombonist James Pankow. He attended North Texas State University and Northwestern, then left school to form a quartet with drummer Maurice White, who later founded Earth, Wind and Fire.

Moving to northern California by 1970, Sisto collaborated on several recordings and later produced jazz and poetry projects with Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Moving from California, he took a job at a jazz club in Louisville, Ky., called Stanley J's, where he worked with many touring jazz musicians. At the same time he developed a relationship with the writer and mystic Thomas Merton, who was also a jazz lover.

In recent years Sisto has performed at jazz clubs throughout the Midwest as well as festivals in Indianapolis, Nashville, Elkhart, Ind., and Louisville. Currently, he is the music director at the famous Seelbach Bar at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel in Louisville, Ky. He also hosts two public radio jazz shows for WFPK radio in Louisville. "The Inner Ear" and "Jazz Folio." He has been the vibes teacher at the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Clinics for the past 10 years and has taught at numerous university and private clinics. He is an Innovative Percussion Mallet Artist.

An internationally known percussionist, composer and teacher, Moore has experience from concert to marching percussion, and from jazz to classical styles. Performing all aspects of percussion, including keyboard percussion, drum set, ethnic and multi-percussion, he is considered a "total percussionist." As a soloist, Moore has developed a unique new style of marimba performance, using a MIDI set-up that allows him to create layers of electronically triggered and natural acoustic sounds. For the past 12 years he has toured as a member of the Britain/Moore Duo.

In 1998 Moore received a grant from the UI Central Investment Fund for Research Excellence to produce a CD of his arrangements of the Percussion Pops music of legendary percussionist Dick Schory, a pioneer of the contemporary percussion ensemble. "Percussion Pops 2000 presents Jungle Fever: The Music of Dick Schory" was recorded by the UI Recording Studios and released in 1999. He is a performing artist for the Yamaha Corporation of America, Sabian Ltd., and Innovative Percussion.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>. More information about Dick Sisto can be found at:

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,