The Enrichment Center Percussion Ensemble (ECPE) was formed in 1997 by its director, multi-instrumentalist and composer Aaron Bachelder, from interested students at the Enrichment Center in Winston-Salem, NC, an arts-based day program for adults with developmental disabilities. In doing so, they established something that had never been before- a truly professional performing group the members of which have developmental disabilities. In spite of their lack of prior musical experience, the group began performing within months of its inception, and had soon performed for thousands of people in and around Winston-Salem. Among their early notable performances was one at the opening of memorialist and architect Maya Lin's first sculpture exhibit (at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, where they went on to perform dozens of times), and frequent performances representing both The Arts Council and The United Way of Forsyth County. The group quickly began attracting the attention of other artists, and a number of collaborations followed, including multiple performances with dance/theater groups Chimaera Physical Theater, the African- American Dance Ensemble, and the Open Dream Ensemble of the North Carolina School of the Arts.
In 2000, Bachelder was asked to compose a new work for violinist and NC School of the Arts professor Sarah Johnson, accompanied by the ECPE, for her new CD entitled "Fiddler's Galaxy" (Albany Records, 2000). The resultant work, "Nomos", was described by the online journal New Music Box as being among works that "might as well be for electronics, the use of the instruments is so sonically interesting" (along with John Cage and Roger Reynolds). American Record Guide described it as "delicate" and "unfailingly attractive". Dr. Eugene Chadbourne, writing in Allmusic.com, called it "what makes this CD really special" and "inspired" (3 stars). Later, group member Marcie Haley began to gravitate more and more toward the drumset and away from other percussion instruments (Aaron subsequently put away his mallets in favor of a guitar) -this shift, among other factors, pushed the group in a direction toward rock and away from its contemporary classical roots. Their next recording, "Three Pieces" (Microearth Records, 2005, with guests Morgan Kraft, Erich Hubner, and Joel Lambdin), presented this new conception of the group's sound: pop structures, textured with techniques and colors of classical minimalism as well as borrowings from various eastern musics. This recording, too, has been well received critically: Dr. Chadbourne, again in Allmusic.com, says, "the project is noble, virtuous, and capable of inflicting great genius on tobacco country... the opening 'Parallax' marks promising artistic heights" (3 1/2 stars). GoTriad called it "mesmerizing" and "hypnotically lush music" and stated that "the band layers soundscape upon soundscape, leaving me sifting through each listen, finding new and gorgeous elements to discover". In 2006, the track "Parallax" was used in a commercial for the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, and the ECPE contributed a new piece, "Wintersong" to the WUAG (U of NC at Greensboro) live compilation, "18 Watts is Better Than None".
Since the recording of "Three Pieces", the group gained two keyboardists, and two percussionists left. The new lineup began work on a new record in October 2006, with engineers Morgan Kraft and Erich Hubner, produced by Aaron Bachelder and Erich Hubner, mixed in March 2007 with Mitch Easter at the Fidelitorium, and mastered by Brent Lambert at Kitchen Mastering. Guest musicians include Hubner, Kraft, Winston-Salem's own Jeffrey Dean Foster, and Vickie Burick of the Asheville- based band Nevada. This new album, "Ten Songs" was released on June 24th, 2008. Sepiachord.com says "Ten Songs is a well conceived and very well executed album that rewards multiple listens" and "so varied its like listening to a chameleon... we've all heard music like this before, but not quite like this". Southeast Performer magazine notes that the album "achieves more and more after each and every listen. Another travel through the album reveals more layers to the seemingly unending attention to detail that has been paid to many different aspects of ECPE's music... the harmony and technical quality of Ten Songs is an achievement indeed". And Yes! Weekly says "an overall eclectic and rich sound... perfect background music to dream or fantasy".
In 2008, the ECPE embarked on a short tour that included performances at the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan, a small experimental arts venue in Brooklyn, as well as a performance and lecture for the NCE (National Conference of Executives of the ARC) in White Plains, NY.
In 2010, the group teamed with students and faculty of UNCSA, as well as with other students and faculty of the EC, to produce the short documentary, “If We Are Listening”, for which they provided the soundtrack.
The music of the ECPE has been used multiple times in videos produced by the NPR program Science Friday; as bumper music on the NPR program Talk of the Nation; in a TV commercial for SECCA, and as theme music for a regional radio program, StoryLine, which airs on multiple stations across the state.
Mr. Bachelder has given talks on his work with the ECPE at conferences in Mohonk, NY; White Plains, NY; White Oak Conservation Center (FL), as well as in North Carolina. In 2013, he was honored with the ECHO Network’s ECHO Award for his work with the group. Additionally in 2013, the ECPE was honored by the Children's Museum of Winston-Salem with the installation of an outdoor exhibit celebrating the group. In 2014, Bachelder was awarded NC ARC teacher of the year.
In August 2015, Aaron left the Enrichment Center and the group to pursue other activities. The group was: Valarie Williams, Andrew Shumaker, Jonathon Lindsay, Walker Lewis, Jr., Meredith Lamy, Marcie Haley, and Aaron Bachelder.