Radford students score big in international competition

Meridythe and Ian-IG-500-72

 A pair of Radford University sophomores, music majors Meridythe Witt and Ian Epperly, rose through stiff competition at the Great Plains International Marimba Competition this summer to bring home 3rd place honors in the Open Duo category. 

The pair perform as the Meridian Percussion Duo, a moniker combining their two first names, since 2021. They have mastered some of the hardest pieces of music written for two marimbas, enabling them to move through the semifinals and into the finals. 

The Great Plains International Marimba Competition was founded in 2013 and takes place each year in Oklahoma City through the Oklahoma Modern Music Collective. This competition attracts some of the most talented young professionals and college students in the world.  

It is the first time Radford students have participated in the contest, making the 3rd place showing more impressive. However, the students say the competition is only part of the equation. 

“We wanted to take our musicianship to the next level,” Witt explained.  

“This kind of internationally renowned competition enables us to grow alongside the best musicians of our generation.” 

“We got to compete against other students from top music schools and professionals from across the country and the world,” Epperly added, “and made many lasting friendships and connections.” 

Epperly and Witt cite the training, support and encouragement of the Radford University percussion teachers Dr. Robert Sanderl and William Newton as a critical element in their success. 

It was Sanderl who initially brought them together. 

“When Meridythe and Ian arrived as freshman, I immediately found them to be both gifted and driven,” he said. “So, I suggested they play a duet for two marimbas that we worked extensively during their first semester and was later featured in their performance in Oklahoma.” 

Over the next two years, Sanderl and Newton continued to cultivate with the pair, guiding them to advanced compositions and working extensively with them. One of the pieces they presented was specifically written for this competition and in many cases, they were competing against older, more experienced musicians from music conservatories. 

Newton says he is very proud of the Meridian Percussion Duo. 

“To prepare such a demanding program, compete against duos from prestigious universities and conservatories, and to win 3rd place is a testament to their incredible work ethic and dedication to the craft” he said. 

Sanderl agreed. 

“I am immensely proud of them and inspired by their musicianship and passion. It is an honor to be their teacher and consider it a gift that they allow me to be part of their journey."


Aug 11, 2023
Sean Kotz