Saturday Night Live Band percussionist Valerie Naranjo joins the Virginia Tech jazz and percussion ensembles at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18  in the Squires Student Center's Old Dominion Ballroom for a special evening of world music.  

Naranjo has played with the Saturday Night Live Band since 1995, where she holds the position of percussion chair. She has performed for the Broadway production of "The Lion King," as well as with other notable musicians including Tori Amos, David Byrne, the Philip Glass Ensemble, and the Paul Winter Consort.

Along with her commercial endeavors, Naranjo has championed the musical heritage of West African percussion music. She is especially accomplished at the gyil (pronounced JEEL), a type of West African marimba instrument, which she will play at the performance. The gyil is traditionally a male-only instrument. Naranjo's performance on the instrument has broken this barrier and led to a chiefly decree by the Dagara nation at the Kobine Festival of Traditional Music in Ghana, allowing women to play the instrument for the fist time. She later won the gyil competition at the festival, making her the first non-native winner.

“Valerie is incredibly invested in bringing this music into our culture," said Annie Stevens, assistant professor of percussion. Naranjo’s West African marimba style is very different from the traditions of marimba performance in Western music. There are layers of rhythms within her arrangements that create a different kind of challenge. For the music student studying in the Western tradition, Stevens says Naranjo will bring "a special and unique view to the way we learn."

Naranjo will be featured with the Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of Annie Stevens, as well as on one piece with the Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of faculty member Jason Crafton.

Naranjo's residency at Virginia Tech is made possible by the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy Lecture Series, the Bruce Carver Multicultural Grant, and the School of Performing Arts.

Tickets are $10 general/$7 student, and may be purchased through the Squires ticket office, or by calling 540-231-5615. Tickets will also be available at the box office beginning one hour prior to the performance.

Squires Old Dominion Ballroom is located in the Squires Student Center at 290 College Ave. on the campus of Virginia Tech. Free parking is available on weekends and after 5 p.m. weekdays in the Squires Lot, located at the corner of College Avenue and Otey Streets, in the Architecture Annex Lot on Otey Street, and the Perry Street/Prices Fork lots. Find more parking information online or call 540-231-3200. Alternative parking is available in the Kent Squire parking garage and the Farmers Market metered parking lot, both located on Draper Road. Additional downtown Blacksburg parking information can be found online.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Susan Sanders at 540-231-5200 or email during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to the event.



Written by Ryan McHugh of Blacksburg, Virginia, an arts leadership graduate candidate in the School of Performing Arts.
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