Meet the Judges

Dr. Brian Zator – Audio Round Judge

Dr. Brian Zator is the Head of Percussion at Texas A&M University-Commerce, having joined the faculty in 2001. He holds degrees from Baylor University, the University of Michigan and the University of North Texas, and is also a student of world-renowned marimba artist, Keiko Abe. Dr. Zator has performed at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC), TMEA, TBA, Midwest, conventions and festivals across the United States, at Carnegie Hall, and abroad in Brazil, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Luxembourg and China. He has two CD’s released on Equilibrium Records: “Zamiki: Music for Solo Marimba” and a chamber-works CD entitled, “Zoomorphs”.

Active within the Percussive Arts Society (PAS), he currently serves as President. He has also served as President-Elect, Secretary, on the Board of Directors, and on the Keyboard and Percussion Ensemble Committees. Dr. Zator was a contributing author for the New Literature Reviews for Percussive Notes and has adjudicated the PAS International Percussion Ensemble, Composition, and Solo Marimba Competitions.

Providing instructional materials for marimba and keyboard students, Dr. Zator wrote a keyboard method book, “Keyboard Fundamentals with Play-Along Tracks”, published by Innovative Percussion, and is the primary keyboard artist for the iBook publications by Pocket Percussion Teacher. He is Chair of the Texas Prescribed Music List (PML) Percussion Committee that regularly edits, updates and revises the primary percussion solo and ensemble list used by high schools across Texas and the country. Dr. Zator is a performing artist and clinician for Dynasty/Bergerault, Innovative Percussion, Sabian, Evans, and Black Swamp Percussion.

Dr. Zator’s students are perennial winners at PASIC competitions, winning the College Keyboard category 5 of the last 8 years, the College Multiple-Percussion category three times, the Timpani category, and the Small Ensemble Competition. The A&M-Commerce Percussion Ensemble was one of the three winners of the prestigious PAS International Percussion Ensemble Competition and performed a showcase concert at PASIC 2010.  The ensemble also presented a concert at PASIC 2006, featuring works of Minoru Miki, and has released two CD’s since 2007. His students have earned graduate assistant positions at prestigious programs across the country and are becoming successful professionals in their chosen fields.

Dr. Zator is also heavily involved in his community, currently in his second term as a School Board Trustee for the Royse City Independent School District. He was one of the Co-Captains for the Davis Elementary All Pro Dad Chapter, having served in this role for the past eight years. Invited by members of the City Council, Dr. Zator serves as Chair of the Royse City Comprehensive Plan Action Committee, and has presented at the Chamber Luncheon and town forums. He is also a member and plays drumset at the Fellowship Church-Royse City.


Dr. David Steffens- Live Round Judge

Dr. David Steffens- Live Round Judge

Dr. David Steffens is principal percussionist of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. He is a recording artist, clinician, educator and champion of new music who has directed the percussion program at the Bass School since 1997.

As a founding member of the Robert Hohner Percussion Ensemble, Steffens is featured on four internationally released CDs on the DMP recording label — Different Strokes, The Gamut, The World Music Tour, and Lift-Off – and on Albany Records’ The Percussion Music of David Maslanka. A Percussive Notes review of Different Strokesdeclared: “This might well be the most artistic balance and blend of percussion music ever recorded.”

In 2005, Steffens recorded Lost Luggage – a five-movement work for solo marimba he commissioned from composer Edward Knight – for the CD Where The Sunsets Bleed, also released by Albany.

Steffens has performed with the Midland Symphony, West Shore Symphony Orchestra, Greater Lansing Symphony, Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra, and Schlossfestspiele in Heidelberg, Germany. He is a frequent guest artist and has presented master classes and percussion clinics on campuses nationwide.

Under Steffens’ leadership, Oklahoma City University’s Percussion Ensemble has performed works ranging from a Red Norvo tribute in Austin to a regional premiere of Stravinsky’s Les Noces to a Maslanka work at the national SCI convention. He has built collaborative partnerships with local artists. In 2004, the Percussion Ensemble appeared with Canterbury Choral Society and Ballet Oklahoma in Tango Take Three, at Oklahoma City’s historic Civic Center.  Rick Rogers of The Daily Oklahoman singled out the percussionists for special praise: “An unexpected surprise was the OCU Percussion Ensemble, an accomplished group of instrumentalists ably directed by David Steffens. Many in the audience were no doubt unfamiliar with the myriad sounds capable of such a group, but multiple mallet keyboards produce impressive sonorities that turned their featured number into a showstopper.”  In 2005, the Percussion Ensemble reprised its collaboration with Canterbury to power the “World Harmonies” concert at the Civic Center.

He received his Performer’s Certificate and his DMA from Eastman School of Music. He is a faculty member at the Oklahoma Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain and has taught at Michigan State, Central Michigan University, and the Eastman School of Music. He is president of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Percussive Arts Society.

He is an artist/clinician for Black Swamp Percussion, Bosphorus Cymbals, Vic Firth, and Yamaha.