Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)




In comparison with other percussion instruments, the marimba made a belated entrance into the musical world of the United States. The purpose of this study was to examine the history and development of the marimba ensemble in the United States and to determine its current status in collegiate percussion programs. This study begins by tracing the history of the marimba from its origins in Indonesia and Africa to its migration to the Americas during the early days of the slave trade. During the first decades of the twentieth century, marimba bands from Guatemala and Mexico toured extensively in the United States performing native folk music and arrangements of light orchestral repertoire. The novelty of the marimba contributed to its popularity on the vaudeville stage. Clair Musser's preoccupation with massed marimba orchestras, and his talents as a promoter, helped establish the concept of the marimba as an ensemble instrument. Gordon Peters was one of the first to recognize that the marimba ensemble could be a great aid in training percussionists to read music, and develop a familiarity with different style periods. Through the success of the Eastman Marimba Masters other college marimba groups were initiated. A questionnaire was used to determine the current status of the marimba ensemble in American institutions of higher education. To obtain the necessary information, surveys were mailed to 248 collegiate institutions that had full NASM accreditation, and a full-time percussion instructor listed in the College Music Society's Directory of Music Faculties in Colleges and Universities (1982-84). Questions were designed to investigate rehearsal procedures, number and types of instruments, concert information, literature, and the artistic merits and values of the marimba ensemble. The results from the questionnaire revealed that seventy-two percent of the American universities surveyed include a marimba ensemble as part of their music program. Over ninety-eight percent of the respondents believed that there is a need to develop new literature for the marimba and mallet-keyboard ensemble. It would appear that if the marimba ensemble is to maintain its artistic integrity, it will have to generate quality literature written specifically for it.