World Percussion Ensembles

World Percussion plays a very strong role at UM.  The World Percussion Ensembles are featured in the annual World Rhythms Concert which takes place at the end of every Spring Semester. Each year, we bring in a featured master artist for a one-week residency culminating in the World Rhythms Concert performance.  These artists work directly with UM percussionists giving them a truly authentic and inspiring experience in their particular type of world music.  Some of the artists who have worked directly with UM students in recent years include – I Made Lasmawan, Balinese Gamelan master musician; Abdoul Doumbia, Master Djembe Drummer from Mali, West Africa; Idrissa Gueye, Master Sabar Drummer from Senegal, West Africa; Edi Gbordzi, Master Drummer and Dancer from Ghana, West Africa;  as well as  Liam Teague, Andy Narell, Gary Gibson, Chris Wabich, and Michael Carney on steel drums.

Islanders Steel Band

Steel Band

Steel bands, which were created and developed in the countries of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, have caught on all over the world.  The instruments, which were invented in the 1930s and originally made from paint cans, are now hand-made from 55 gallon oil drums – hence the name “steel drum.”  Steel “pans” as they are referred to in Trinidad, come in several sizes paralleling the instruments of an orchestra including Leads or Single Tenors, Double Tenors, Double Seconds, Guitars, Cello and Bass instruments.  The infectious rhythmic backgrounds to the music is provided by the “engine room” which includes drumset, brake drum, cowbell, congas and a variety of other percussion instruments used for appropriate styles.  The Islanders Steel Band was formed in 1992 and continues to be one of the most popular musical groups at UM.  The group has been invited to perform throughout the region and has released three CD recordings entitled Summer Songs (1998), Pandemonium (2003) and A Steel Band Christmas (2013). The CDs are $10 and can be purchased at our concerts or by contacting Dr. Robert LedBetter directly.

Listen iconPlay One For Keith by Andy Narell

UM Jaya Budaya Balinese Gamelan

Gamelan posed

Gamelans are percussion orchestras originating in Indonesia (Bali and Java have the strongest tradtitions) and consist of bronze-keyed metalaphones of various sizes, kettle gongs, gongs, double=headed drums and bamboo flutes.  The UM Jaya Budaya (“victory culture”) Gamelan performs traditional Balinese instrumental and dance pieces as well as Bala Ganjur or processional-style gamelan. The group is fortunate to work with master Balinese musician I Made Lasmawan who visits UM for a one-week residency before each concert. The ensemble was honored to perform for the Consulate General of Indonesia who visited Missoula to see the group in 2010.

Bali Trips

Bali Trip

Every four years, Dr. LedBetter leads a group of UM music students to Bali for a three-week intensive study of gamelan and Balinese culture. The group stays in the family compound of our teacher I Made Lasmawan in Bangah Village which is in the central mountain region of Bali.  The group studies four styles of gamelan – gamelan angklung, gong kebyar, bala ganjur and gender wayang – and has performed for Hindu Temple Festivals and even an Elementary School Graduation.  Living in the village enables us to immerse ourselves in the culture while eating an amazing cuisine most of which is grown right there in the village.  The trip also includes visits to many important cultural sites and temples including the Mother Temple and other field trips including attending several cultural performances in Ubud (the cultural center of Bali) and the Bali Arts Festival in Denpassar. Previous Bali Trips took place in 2012 and 2016.  The next trip is tentatively scheduled for 2020.

West African

edi Gbordzi

The UM West African Ensemble performs a variety of song and drum traditions from several West African regions including: barrel drums of the Ewe people and kpan logo of the Ga people of Ghana, sabar drumming of the Wolof people from Senegal, and Mandinga djembe drumming from Guinea and Mali.  Several African master drummers have taught and performed with the group including Abdoul Doumbia of Mali,Idrissa Gueye of Senegal and Edi Gbordzi of Ghana.



The UM Brazilian Ensemble performs in the tradition of the Samba Schools of Rio de Janeiro and the more contemporary Samba Reggae of Salvador, Bahia. The ensemble also performs the lighter and jazz-influenced side of Brazilian music styles including bossa nova, baiao, partido alto among others.

Afro-Cuban & Salsa Band

Salsa Band

The Afro-Cuban group and Salsa Band perform the unique rhythms of Cuba and the Salsa Band plays latin-jazz standards in a variety of styles including mambo, cha cha, guaracha, guanguanco and many others.

icon  Sonando by Poncho Sanchez

Mexican Marimba

The Mexican Marimba band performs traditional songs orchestrated for marimba ensemble as performed in the Chiapas region of Mexico including waltzes, ranchero songs, polkas, sons and others.

icon  La Bamba - Traditional, arr. W. Cahn