There are very few things that could make me cross the Ohio River and travel into Indiana. One of those things took place in November as Indianapolis, (or Nap Town as the kids call it) played host to the 2014 edition of the Percussive Arts Society International Conference. One of the best things about the percussion world, is the fact that our convention is so broad. Whether you are a highly educated professor, a student, a performer, or just a general enthusiast there is a place for you at PASIC. This was only my fourth PASIC, but every time I go, I come away with way more than I expect, not just about percussion and education, but about how to navigate the PASIC convention as an entity in and of itself. Here is a reference guide to help you in the future.
Every year PASIC is held in different locations. For the past two years however, it has been held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Unlike the rest of Indiana, which is a barren wasteland of corn fields and crappy college basketball teams, downtown Indy is actually a pretty cool place to find yourself. It has a plethora of hotels, shops, bars, and restaurants to enjoy on your stay and you will most likely want to lock down a hotel that is close to the convention center. This will make your trip more centralized and give you a nice base of operations in which to plan your trip around. Unfortunately, your fearless travel correspondent here didn’t get his hotel paid for, and thus was forced to shack up with friends in North Indy and commute in each day (shout out Dr. and Mrs. Silvers for the crash pad.) I will be taking applications for couches to sleep on for PASIC 2015 in San Antonio.
THE COFFEE PLACE WAS CROWDED.
As a profession, we percussionists are a coffee drinking bunch. I kicked off my morning each day seeing Ruth at the Starbucks on Georgia street, and evidently so did everyone else. Once I did my morning slog through the line to get my Cinnamon Dolce Latte, (don’t judge, I drink fancy coffee when I’m out of town) it was off to the convention center to check out some clinics.
Whatever you’re into, there is a clinic for you. Drumset? Marimba? North Indian music? Gamelon? They got it all. Don’t be afraid to check out stuff you’re not necessarily an expert on as well, though. Some of the clinics that I have most enjoyed have been ones that I wasn’t expecting to like at all. The presenters are the world’s foremost experts on their subject, so you should definitely check out whatever they have to say. This year, She-e Wu gave an excellent marimba clinic regarding marimba performance and technique. This would be like going to watch Michael Jordan do a clinic on dunking a basketball. They are the best of the best. You’ve got to check them out.
Just like there are clinics by great teachers, there are performances by great performers. I always enjoy going to watch the percussion ensembles. Since so much of my job is based around percussion education in a scholastic setting, the showcase concerts for schools and universities is very interesting to me. This year Aledo High School, under the direction of Tanner Trigg, and The Woodlands High School, under the direction of Andy Salmon, absolutely killed it. Let me say it again: KILLED IT! Also, Artie Henry Middle School, under Hector Gil, played a magnificent concert as well. All of these performances further proved that old adage, “ Don’t mess with Texas.” Other great performances were given by University of Kentucky, So Percussion, Billy Cobham, Lee Howard Stevens, Third Coast Percussion, and so many others were ones that made this year’s PASIC one to remember. The only downside to the Performance/Clinic schedule at PASIC is that there is literally more to see than you can possibly see at one time, and often you find yourself leaving one clinic early to catch a little bit of another one somewhere else. For future reference, you are well advised to download the guidebook app and plan your clinic and performance viewings off of it. It is an incredibly valuable tool, and you’ll be glad you did it.
THE EXHIBIT HALL
One of the best things about PASIC is the exhibit hall. Typically this blows people’s minds the very first time they see it, and it can be a little overwhelming. Essentially, the exhibit hall is the world’s largest drum shop. Most major companies, and a variety of other percussion based retailers, have booths and exhibits that you, as a PAS member, can enjoy. Feel free to browse among the aisles and try out some new gear, talk to some retailers, and enjoy what is going on around you. Many of these companies even have prototype or new products that they are letting folks get a look at for the first time. They want you to check it all out and enjoy it. THAT BEING SAID, ACT LIKE YOU’VE BEEN THERE BEFORE. I’ve never seen anyone get a gig based on their drumming prowess in the PASIC exhibit hall. I have however, seen lots of people sit down behind some very expensive, perfect pieces of equipment and commence to shredding like they are on the main stage at Lollapalooza. I have also seen the people who work the booths where the aforementioned goober is messing around, roll their eyes in disgust. They aren’t impressed, and neither are the rest of us. My suggestion is to put down the sticks, and go watch a clinic. Also, when visiting the marching percussion instruments, please try to refrain from drumming your show music on every display drum. We are all very impressed by the beats that you played this season at Butt Crack County High School, but if we wanted to hear it, we would check it out on YouTube. Enjoy the products that are on display. Get educated on particular brands and equipment. Try out a few select pieces of gear. Please, Please, Please don’t embarrass yourself.
A lot of the best lessons I have ever learned at PASIC have been acquired at the restaurants, coffee shops, or lobbies after the last clinic is over. Like so many other kinds of conventions, networking opportunities are everywhere. You may find yourself in a group of people going to dinner and waiting for a table in a restaurant with your drumming heroes. That’s a great time to talk to them, pick their brains, and learn from them. Go ahead and ask Ian Grom a question about indoor orchestration. Discuss the creation of the Stevens grip with LHS. Or, challenge Jeff Queen to an arm wrestling contest. The time to meet and greet your drumming idols is while waiting for your table at your preferred dining establishment. Ultimately, it’s the time to be reminded that the people who are helping to propel our profession forward are the most normal and down to earth people you would ever meet, and they are happy to share their extensive knowledge with you.
For the serious percussionists, the PASIC weekend each year is perhaps the finest and most comprehensive time for our professional growth. The lineup for clinics and performances has yet to be released for PASIC 2015, though history strongly indicates that it will be an awesome weekend. Should you find yourself in San Antonio next year, make sure that you don’t miss out on the opportunity to better yourself as a musician and a player. I’m really hoping Ruth can get a transfer to the San Antonio Starbucks so I can get my coffee done right.