McNally Smith College of Music

Discover your life in music

Earn Your Degree in Percussion Performance
1, 2 and 4 year programs available

Percussion Performance

The Percussion Performance program is designed to develop your technical proficiency and stylistic vocabulary as a drummer so that you’re able to excel in a variety of musical contexts, both on stage and in the studio. Through intensive ensemble work and individualized private lessons, you’ll refine your musicianship and sharpen your sense of time, groove and feel on the drum set. Whether you’re into rock, pop, hip-hop, jazz or metal — explore a variety of styles and learn to master the music you’re most passionate about.

By building a solid foundation in technique, groove skills, ear training, chart reading and music theory, you’ll be prepared to succeed in a variety of career paths as a professional drummer.

Ready For The Real World

As a Percussion Performance major, you’ll receive a hands-on education in a real world environment that directly mirrors the music industry. By playing in ensembles ranging from Jazz Fusion to Indie Rock to Afro-Caribbean Drumming, you’ll gain professional live experience alongside fellow performance majors and industry-seasoned faculty who’ll challenge and encourage you to take your talent to a new level. You’ll learn how to frame a composition on the drum set, how to anchor the rhythm section and support lead players, and how to consistently deliver quality takes by working with music production majors in state-of-the-art studios. And through our job board, you’ll find gigging opportunities with both area bands and commercial projects.

You’ll also get a head start on your music career by building your professional network while still in school. And with access to guest artists, internships and the thriving Twin Cities music scene, you’ll be connected to the industry before you graduate.

Teaching For Tomorrow

To succeed as a professional drummer, you need a well-rounded education that prepares you for the ever-evolving future of music. That’s why our Percussion Performance degree program focuses on fostering your creativity and musicianship while also giving you the necessary technology skills to adapt and compete in the industry. You’ll also graduate equipped with the entrepreneurial mindset and business savvy you’ll need to reach your goals and establish your career.

With a comprehensive education that blends artistry, technology and entrepreneurship, you’ll have the skills and knowledge to make and sustain a life in music.

Your Career Path

Graduates of the Percussion Performance program are prepared for a variety of career options, including:

  • Professional Drummer
  • Touring Musician
  • Session Player
  • Band Leader
  • Music Director
  • Clinician
  • Music Teacher
  • Private Lesson Studio

 Studios & Facilities

Our campus features 3 performance venues, 6 technology labs, and 11 recording studios where students learn to record, edit and mix music and audio.

Student Life

There’s a lot to explore outside of class, including student organizations, free concerts, music ensembles, and the diverse music and art scene of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The Auditorium hosts student recitals, guest artist concerts and music industry seminars year round. MIDI Lab. Students learn to write and produce music using hardware and software, including Logic Pro. Pro Tools Lab. Students learn editing, mixing and production techniques using the latest software. One of the multipurpose classrooms used for rehearsing bands, teaching music theory and songwriting. The Sound Bite Café features an intimate performance setting for small ensembles, guest artists and workshops. The 48-input SSL Duality console in Studio 1, with a view into the main performance area. Studio 1. 48-input SSL Duality hybrid analog-digital console; Barefoot MicroMain 27 monitors. Studio 4 features a Digidesign ICON D-Command Work surface and 5.1 surround mixing system. Studio 5. Trident 80B analog console; Otari MTR-90 24-track analog recorder; Pro Tools HD2 system. Studio 10 main performance area. Studio 10 features three racks of outboard mic preamplifiers, compressors, equalizers, and limiters.
Many artists have launched their careers at First Avenue, Minnesota’s quintessential music venue. The Theater Ensemble performs rock musical RENT at the History Theatre located on campus. At The Sessions master class, industry pros like Dom Famularo help artists sharpen their business skills. EDM artist/producer Francis Preve demonstrates remix techniques using Ableton Live during a master class. The X-Tet Ensemble studies traditional cajón technique in Lima, Peru during their South American tour. Concertgoers get the full Flaming Lips experience at River’s Edge Music Festival, downtown St. Paul. The NOLA Ensemble performs authentic New Orleans-style jazz at an Open House event. The Contemporary Vocal Ensemble performs onstage in McNally Smith’s Auditorium. Music Business students plan, promote and execute a SXSW day party in Austin, TX. Students pause for a photo-op while guiding campus tours at Open House. Taking a break during the McNally Smith kickball tournament at nearby Harriet Island, St. Paul.

FacultyView All Faculty >>

Gordy Knudtson

Gordy Knudtson is drummer for the Steve Miller Band, Founder and Head of the Percussion Department at McNally Smith College and President/Owner of Within two years of playing his first pro gig at 17, Knudtson was doing studio work by day while playing clubs at night with many different local bands. In 1981 he was called to tour the US, Canada, and Australia, with legendary guitar player Roy Buchanan. The following year he began six-year stint touring and recording with jazz pianist/vocalist Ben Sidran. In 1987 Knudtson joined the Steve Miller Band, touring every year since then (except for a three year hiatus in ‘01-’03). His TV appearances with the band include The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, PBS Steve Miller Band -Live from Chicago, CMT Crossroads, The Jools Holland Show, and Austin City Limits. Gordy also played on six of Steve’s recordings - Born 2B Blue, Wide River, The Box Set, Bingo, Let Your Hair Down, and The Joker Live.

Gordy has authored many percussion method books. His 2002 book and video Single Stroke Rolls & The Open/Close Technique was the first to be published on the topic. This generated an invitation from the Percussive Arts Society to be one of three presenters chosen for a first ever hand technique clinic series at PASIC 2003 called The Hand Development Series. (The other presenters were Joe Morello and Jim Chapin.) In 2011 he published Morphing Doubles with Open/Close Technique, which provides new mechanical insights into rudiments by combining slow motion notation with open/close movement notations.

Like many other musicians, Gordy suffers from tinitus and noise induced hearing loss. In 1995 his company,, became the first company to make and market hearing protection headphones designed specifically for musicians called DrumPhones. These headphones provided much more acoustic isolation than regular headphones to help protect a musician's hearing from loud external sounds AND excessive headphone volume levels. His success with this idea has spawned competition, but his current model called UltraPhones, is the headphone of choice for many professional musicians across the country.

David Stanoch

David Stanoch is an in-demand and versatile drummer/educator who has performed globally with an eclectic array of artists including Sheryl Crow, George Clinton, Richard Davis, Freedy Johnston, Jack McDuff, the Minnesota Orchestra, New Kids on the Block, Regis Philbin, Bonnie Raitt, Don Rickles, Doc Severinsen, Ben Sidran, Butch Vig, and the Supremes’ Mary Wilson.

A former student of Max Roach, Alan Dawson, Elliot Fine, Jeff Hamilton and Chad Wackerman, David is a contributing author to Modern Drummer magazine and, in 2012, was named a member of that magazine’s first-ever Educational Team. He is also a member of the Vic Firth Educational Artist Program and the Hudson Music Teacher Integration Program. As a sought-after clinician, David regularly presents masterclasses at events including the annual Percussive Arts Society International Convention and NAMM Show. As an author, his drum set method book, Mastering the Tables of Time, Vol. I, was released to instant critical acclaim in 2008, was voted “#1 Educational Book” in the Modern Drummer 2009 Readers Poll, and is distributed worldwide by Alfred Music Publishing.


We offer 1, 2 and 4-year degrees in Percussion Performance, giving you options for a degree that fits with your plans and budget.

$12,870 per semester for full-time attendance (13-17 credits)

  • Bachelor’s degree: 120 credits
  • Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree: 60 credits
  • Diploma: 45 credits

$990 per credit for part-time attendance More info >>

Financial Aid

On average, more than $1 million in College-funded aid is awarded annually in the form of merit-based scholarships and need-based grants. More than 85% of our students receive financial assistance to help cover their educational costs.

Click here to learn about the many resources available to help pay for college.

Gainful Employment Statistics


McNally Smith College of Music is institutionally and programmatically accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and is registered with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. More info >>

Applied Theory I

Students examine how essential elements of music theory (melody, rhythm, scales, form, improvisation) are represented in contemporary music and directly apply classroom lessons on the bass, gaining deeper understanding of a variety of popular styles and standard works.

Drum Set Improvisation Techniques

Students explore and execute advanced performance techniques on the drum set through in-depth analysis of diverse styles, including jazz, Latin and rock. Through detailed listening, transcription, and analysis of key master drummers from past to present, students gain insight into their unique contributions to the evolution of drumming. Emphasis is placed on improvisation and soloing.

Technique I

Students work on developing sound technique through the study of various grips, ergonomics and efficiency of motion. Emphasis is placed on building a workable foundation for effective performing in a variety of musical styles.