Varner5 seated with Djembe.jpg

Dr. Michael Varner seated with the Djembe percussion instrument. He will perform in concert at Hill College, Thursday, Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Vara Martin Daniel Performing Arts Center at the Hill College Hill County Campus, 112 Lamar Drive, in Hillsboro.

The Hill College visual and performing arts department is proud to announce the 2019-20 performances for the Phillip H. Lowe Performing Arts Series at 7:30 p.m. at the Vara Martin Daniel Performing Arts Center at the Hill College Hill County Campus, 112 Lamar Drive, in Hillsboro. Admission is free and open to the public for all events.

The first act is Oct. 17 featuring Michael Varner with a presentation and concert on The Nigerian “Talking Drum.” The “Talking Drum” has long fascinated musicians from around the world. Little accurate information about this unique member of the percussion family has been known outside of Nigeria. Recently, Varner traveled to Nigeria to learn more about the tradition of “Dundun” and discovered a fascinating history and vibrant current use of this instrument. This presentation/performance offers information on the drum, the traditional performers, and how they can literally “speak” mimicking the pitches and rhythms of language. 

The “Talking Drum” is a source of history, poetry, proverbs and daily life in the Yoruba culture. The connection of awareness of culture through music is the primary purpose of the presentation.

The presentation includes over 100 photos from Nigeria, live performance of all the musical aspects of the talking drum, video and audio of Dundun performances, language and ceremonial examples, and much more. Members of the audience will have the opportunity to participate and learn to play the “Talking Drums.”

Varner, a percussionist, composer and educator recently retired from The University of Texas at Arlington after 36 years as director of percussion. He taught percussion and world music at the University level for 40 years. He has presented music clinics in every state, Africa, Europe and Japan. 

He holds a degree in music education from Bowling Green State University, a master’s in performance from The University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from the University of North Texas. 

His interest in world music led to a sabbatical in Nigeria and “Study-Abroad” classes to Ghana. His article “Skin That Speaks” was published internationally in the 2013 Percussive Notes Journal, and he received a grant to accept an invitation from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria for teaching and research. 

He taught all world music courses at UT Arlington including their nationally recognized African ensemble. He was a member of the Honor’s College Faculty, chosen as Honor’s faculty member of the Year. Active in every part of the Percussive world, he has performed professionally with Symphony orchestra’s, contemporary pop artists, opera, and musicals. He has written for and instructed nationally recognized Drum Corp International and Winter Guard International marching groups including the Chicago Cavaliers and the Toledo Glassmen. 

Under his leadership, the nationally recognized University of Texas at Arlington Drumline performed competitively with high rankings at a number of Percussive Arts Societies marching competitions.  

Varner released his latest CD “reVelations” featuring his own compositions. He has over 20 commissioned compositions, is published internationally and is currently a member of the PAS composition committee.  For video and more information on Varner visit:


Other acts

The second act is Nov. 21 and will feature The Western Flyers, who are one of the most exciting bands to glide on to the music scene in years. Their unique sound is a cross section of the great American song book: classic western swing, hot jazz and swing standards, vintage country and cowboy songs and electrifying old-time fiddle tunes. 

The third act for the season is My Monkey & Me Beatles Tribute Band on Feb. 6. They were invited to play at “Beatleweek 2004” in Liverpool, England, where they also played at the world famous ‘Cavern Club,’ on the very same stage the Beatles played on when their rise to popularity began, over 40 years ago. 

The final act of the 2019-20 season will be the Don Diego Trio on April 7. They feature sounds of classic rockabilly, 60s country and honky-tonk. They tour all over Europe and U.S. with six records, three Ameripolitan “Best Rockabilly Band” nomination, more than 200 gigs a year.

If you would like to support the Phillip H. Lowe Performing Arts Series you are invited to become a benefactor with a $100 donation, a sustainer with a $50 donation, a patron for $25 or a supporter $10. 

If you would like receive concert reminders via USPS mail outs or emails, please contact Bradley Bolick by email at

React to this story:


Recommended for you