Drumming His Way to the Top

January 21, 2020

Rising percussionist Riley Wendt, a sophomore at Riverhead High School, has drummed his way onto some serious stages, and now has his sights set on attending the Juilliard School, as well as Boston University Tanglewood Institute this summer.

Wendt has been studying percussion for nine years, four of them privately. He recently auditioned for both schools and supplied them with an impressive resume.

As a freshman, Wendt earned an unprecedented 5% scores of 100 on his Level VI solos at the New York State School Music Association Solo Evaluation Festival, where he performed on snare drum, multiple percussion, timpani, two-mallet marimba and four-mallet marimba. His outstanding performances earned him a place in the 2020 New York State Band Directors Association High School Honor Band. This will be his second performance with NYSBDA, having performed two years ago at its prestigious music festival. He also qualified this year to perform in festivals held by the Hampton Music Educators Association and the Suffolk County Music Educators’ Association.

Last summer, Wendt was selected as one of five percussionists out of 1,000 applicants to study and perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Saratoga Springs as part of the Orchestral School of Studies, co-sponsored by NYSSMA. During this four-week program, he studied with the principal timpanist and principal percussionist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and performed in concerts at the Arthur Zankel Music Center’s Ladd Concert Hall at Skidmore College, the Massry Center for the Arts at the College of Saint Rose, and the acclaimed Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where he was featured in a rare marimba duet.

During the school year, Wendt serves as principal percussionist for the Sound Symphony, an accomplished orchestra comprised of adult music educators and professionals across Long Island. He also performs regularly with his school’s pit orchestra, jazz band, wind ensemble and symphonic band, and studies privately with renowned percussion instructor Gary Hodges. In addition to his musical studies, he is a member of his school’s National Honor Society and National Foreign Language Honor Society as a student of French.