Apollo Percussion Bringing a New Sound to The Hill

Spartan fans who fill the stands this week to watch the Varsity football team take on the Austin Royals at home are in for a musical treat. Apollo Percussion, the Upper School drumline formerly known as the Thunder Drums, will deliver their debut performance – with a fresh name and fresh sound – under the Thursday night lights.

Apollo, known in Greek mythology as the god of music and dance, among other things, is rolling out a new repertoire of electrifying and groove-oriented music called samba, which has Brazilian roots and lends itself to festivals, parades and sporting events. 

“It’s going to be a new flavor that packs the same punch,” said St. Stephen’s Percussion Director Andrew Dobos. “It’s the first time we’re bringing this style of music to The Hill.”

The 18 Upper School students taking Dobos’ Apollo A and Apollo B instrument courses this school year, make up Apollo Percussion. Their skill levels range from beginners to those with several years of experience. Each student will get the opportunity to rotate on the instruments, and eventually learn how to play multiple drums and the parts associated with them.

Dobos, who stepped into the exciting role at St. Stephen’s in December 2022, is well versed in keyboard percussion, and has two music degrees in percussion performance, a full gigging schedule with two projects (Modded Marimba and The Kraken Quartet), and was most recently the assistant director of Austin Samba – a group of more than 40 drummers and 60 dancers who perform the music and dance of Brazilian Carnaval, with styles ranging from Rio to Bahia. 

Because of connections made in Austin Samba, Apollo will be marching onto the field with new, specially made drums bearing the red and purple Spartan helmet logo on the drum head. It was important to Dobos that his students get the full cultural experience by playing on authentic instruments made in the country where the music originated. The same manufacturer builds drums for Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The specific style of music Apollo will be playing is called samba batucada, and will definitely keep the crowd and football players moving and grooving. If you listen closely you’ll hear a core foundational rhythm the group plays called the ride, followed by small ensemble solos called breaks interspersed throughout. These breaks always conclude by naturally segueing back into the ride. Each rehearsal Apollo learns new breaks and rhythms to keep bringing fresh material to the football games.

These samba performances are just the beginning for Apollo. As the school year rocks on, students will tackle concert percussion music that incorporates keyboard percussion, student compositions, drum set, hand drums and more. Students will perform in small ensembles with fellow classmates, to full ensembles comprising every member of the studio. In addition to performing on The Hill, Dobos is looking to take Apollo students off campus to a variety of local festivals this year, including the Central Texas Percussion Festival, HONK! TX, and the prestigious ISAS Fine Arts Festival.

For more information about Apollo and St. Stephen’s Performing Arts click here.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213