• Drum Set and Percussion Setups from Musical Theatre and More

Radio City Christmas Spectacular - Kyle Maxwell-Doherty, Joshua Mark Samuels

Kyle Maxwell-Doherty and Joshua Mark Samuels' percussion setup for the 2015 Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York City.

"Having the ability to perform the majority of the book on electronic percussion instruments (save the timpani) allows the rest of the band to spread out physically and save their ears in the pit. However, the main reason for the extensive use of electronic percussion is the control and flexibility it affords the section."


Photo below of the DrumKAT.


Two photos below are of the Apple computers running Native Instruments' Kontakt Sampler software. One Mac Mini for Percussion 1, one for Percussion 2 and an Apple Laptop that both Percussion 1 & 2 feed into as the backup. On top of each Mac mini is the audio interface.


Photo below is of the audio routing for all of the KAT instruments to the Sound Board in the back of the house. If one of the Apple Mac minis go down, we have to flip a switch to re-route the audio from the minis to the backup laptop.

Kyle and Joshua.


"Broadway and theater pits around the globe are certainly no stranger to the malletKAT. However, it is unlikely that any theater utilizes the KAT gear as much as the Radio City percussion section during the annual Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, featuring the high kicking Rockettes.

This year Kyle and Joshua split the timpani book (Percussion 2) while Mario DeCiutiis holds the Percussion 1 chair by himself. This means that over the course of two months there are 204 shows split evenly between the two of them. In addition, Joshua is also subbing on the drum book. If you include the drum set player, there are three percussionists performing at each show.

Percussion 1 & Percussion 2 set-ups are nearly identical in regard to their electronic components. Each utilize two stacked malletKATs and one drumKAT. Percussion 1 (Mario's chair) includes an additional malletKAT and Percussion 2 (Kyle and Joshua's chair) includes four acoustic timpani.

This year, we have stacked the two malletKATs on top of one another. The top malletKAT features all of the concert percussion and percussion samples - snare drum, Mark Tree, shakers, woodblocks, etc. In past years we've used the panKAT for most of the percussion samples, but due to space limitations (mainly the recent addition of the four acoustic timpani) we decided to stack the malletKATs and use the top one for percussion samples exclusively. The bottom malletKATs are reserved for the keyboard percussion portions of the show (xylophone, glockenspiel, chimes, etc.) while the drumKATs are utilized for the Latin percussion instruments as well as the ‘toys’ - bicycle bell, sirens, police whistles, etc. Percussion 1 has the additional malletKAT for some quick vibe and chime changes.

Having the ability to perform the majority of the book on electronic percussion instruments (save the timpani) allows the rest of the band to spread out physically and save their ears in the pit. However, the main reason for the extensive use of electronic percussion is the control and flexibility it affords the section. The orchestra sits on a 'band car' that physically moves around during the show. It begins in the 'pit' and moves up about two stories to the theater. During the show we also move down to a 'garage' for the band car, which makes room for additional stage space to be used by the actors/dancers and performers. This amount of movement proves to be problematic when miking that many live instruments. It can also be an eye sore to the audience when giant shields are encasing the entire drums and percussion section. Therefore the almost exclusively electronic percussion section has become commonplace at the Christmas Spectacular these past years. We should mention that the drum set book is also electronic, featuring Roland’s TD-30 V-Drums.

Similar to the time that is spent deciding on mallet and instrument selection, most of the rehearsal and dress rehearsal time is spent determining the volumes, durations, and other ADSR (Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release) related nuances of the over 50 percussion instruments sampled for this year’s production, not just the samples' relative volume to the other samples, but even how the samples respond at varying velocity levels. One of the most successful aspects of the nearly completely digital show is our flexibility when the Musical Director or sound designer has a request for a slight modification during or between shows. If the sound designer hears the Mark Trees being really hot in the house we can open up the sample and drag down the level for that individual sample. It saves us from beating up the KAT instruments or having to always play a certain sample louder or softer than the others.

One huge important aspect of the production is the need for redundancy. Each percussion book runs its own Apple Mac mini with a Macbook Pro as backup for the percussion section at large. This year the system features an entire reboot in just under 7 seconds. If one book goes down, the player has the ability to join the second book due to the mirroring set-ups. That way if a massive emergency were to arise, theoretically, one percussionist could move over into the other set-up and perform their parts of the show. And if all else fails, both books carry an acoustic tambourine and a couple of shakers just for kicks (pun intended).

The confetti you see all over the floor is make-believe snow that falls inside the music hall during the curtain call. It is a big hit with the young kiddos… but that stuff gets everywhere - on top of the timpani, in-between the bars of the malletKAT and inside the tuba bell....YAY!

Implements utilized:

  • Vic Firth M154 - Hard Keyboard Mallets (customized with birch shaft instead of rattan)
  • Vic Firth T3 - Staccato Timpani Mallets
  • Vic Firth Tim Genis Gen1 - Roller Timpani Mallets
  • Vic Firth Tim Genis Gen4 - Dulce Articulate Timpani Mallets
  • Vic Firth Tim Genis Gen5 - Tonal Timpani Mallets
  • Vic Firth Tim Genis Gen6 - Hard Tonal Timpani Mallets
  • Vic Firth Tim Genis Gen8 - Molto Articulate Timpani Mallets

Kyle is a proud endorser of Vic Firth and Kat Percussion.
Joshua is a proud endorser Vic Firth, TreeHouse Custom Drums and Kat Percussion.

Kyle Maxwell-Doherty currently resides in New York City where he works as a freelance percussionist and dance musician. He has spent three years working for Keigwin + Company, Ballet Hispanico, Hofstra University, Marymount Manhattan College, Doug Varone and Dancers, The New School, Ballet Tech and Peridance Capezio Center. This year he serves at the timpani co-chair at the Radio Christmas Spectacular. He currently subs for Hamilton: An American Musical and is finishing his D.M.A. Degree from the University of Arizona under the tutelage of Norman Weinberg.

Joshua Mark Samuels has traveled the world playing drums and percussion. He currently resides in New York City where he works on Broadway and performs for many prominent composers and singers/songwriters. He subs drums for Aladdin and Jersey Boys on Broadway, and has previously toured with the Jersey Boys and Anything Goes national tours. At the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Joshua subs on drums in addition to serving as the timpani co-chair.

December 2015