Next week thousands of percussion students, teachers, vendors, and enthusiasts will arrive in Indianapolis for one of the largest, if not greatest, drum and percussion shows on earth, the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC). In its 44th year, PASIC is an annual convention that features sessions covering a wide range of music and percussion topics, concerts by the finest artists and ensembles, and boasts a massive expo hall showcasing the latest in percussion instruments, gear, publications, and services.
This year’s convention will be my 15th PASIC. I make every effort to make the trip to the percussion mecca. This blog post is a brief look at my experiences with the international convention and why I keep coming back year after year.
My first PASIC was in 1998 in Orlando, FL. I was a sophomore in high school and I was able to go as a volunteer. I didn’t actually get to attend the convention over the 4-day event but I had two great opportunities to participate. As a helper with the Marching Festival, I was the person opening and closing the door for the collegiate keyboard participants as they rolled their marimba in and out of the room to compete. I remember thinking, “man, these marimba pieces are weird. I bet I can just make things up and hit things too.” Little did I know at the time that I would be competing years later and performing “weird” marimba pieces at PASIC.
The second opportunity I had at my first PASIC was participating in a timpani master class by Stanley Leonard. Leonard chose 3 timpanists at various levels and I was definitely the beginner. I think I played a two-drum etude out of the Carroll method or Firth etude book. I wonder what would have happened if I pursued those timpani/orchestral chops rather than my marching chops that was pushed more at my high school. The world may never know.
I finally was able to attend PASIC as a full attendee in 2004 in Nashville, TN (college marching band can do wonders to the Fall schedule). I remember being filled with awe as I went to every clinic I could, and saw my percussion heroes perform and present with brilliance and poise. This first real PASIC experience was life-changing. It had me question if I really should pursue music and give up now but it also motivated me to go back to the practice room to get better. Paul Buyer wrote a great blog post a few years back about the life-changing power of PASIC and I share the same feelings and thoughts about the convention.
Throughout my college career, I attended 7 conventions in TN, TX, and OH. Going in November was a nice break from classes (and marching band) to get rejuvenated and excited about percussion that lasted for the rest of the school year. Although I experienced new things year after year, I felt that PASIC became cyclical. The same artists, ensembles, topics seemed to come back frequently. This gave me the chance to branch out and experience other areas of percussion that I was not familiar with such as world percussion and music technology. There is something for everyone, from the beginner, the student still in school, and the professional.
Now as a college music teacher, I spend most of my time at PASIC trying to find new literature to play or program for my students. My favorite/must-go sessions are the International Percussion Ensemble Competition showcase concerts. These concerts give me the chance to hear great literature but also see what levels of performance are being produced by the top ensembles. The artistry in their music-making inspires me to get my students to that level of performance.
Lately, my PASIC experience has changed from not only enjoying the convention as an attendee but serving the Percussive Arts Society in various ways. The last few years PASIC has been filled with committee meetings, performances, rehearsals, and presentations. At last year’s PASIC I presented my first clinic session, played lead pan in a mass steel band, attended the Education Committee and Chapter Presidents meetings, and helped organize and run the Rudiment Training Session. (The training sessions are located outside the expo hall. Stop on by to test your rudimental knowledge and become certified in the 40 PAS rudiments. You also get a pack of rudiment playing cards, something that every percussionist should have for Game Night.)
My favorite thing to do before PASIC is to get the master schedule and program booklet and make a plan of attack of the sessions I want to attend (A copy of the master grid schedule can be found here). Also, the September issue of Percussive Notes is dedicated as a PASIC Preview. You can read up on the artists and sessions before arriving in Indy. If paper copies are not your style, PASIC has an app that lets you do away with the program book and paper grid. This year the app is called Attendify. But do remember to bring a phone charger or a battery backup to make sure your phone doesn’t die while you record Nate Smith’s drum set clinic.
My favorite thing to do at PASIC is exploring the expo hall. There are vendors for everything that related to percussion. The latest and greatest percussion gear is on display for you to try out. A new layout premiered last year in the expo hall and was a game changer. They created different sections: a smaller, quieter section mainly for publishers, and a larger, louder section for instrument manufacturers. The change was much needed as you had a yell to talk to anyone in the expo hall in previous years. Here is a video of a quick trip about the hall I made in 2016.
Lastly, the most important thing about PASIC is the people. PASIC is a great way to network and meet new people who have the same common goal to promote and share their love of the percussive arts. You also have the chance to finally meet that Facebook friend you have had for a while in person. In addition to meeting new people, it’s always a great time to catch up with old friends. One night during PASIC is designated as a UCF hang, where the UCF alumni to go dinner and Jeff Moore finds many ways to poke fun at all of us.
PASIC 2015 – San Antonio, TX
If you go to PASIC this year it will be great to meet up and chat. Stop me in the expo hall and say hello. If you are free at 9:00 AM on Friday morning, come to Dr. Joe Moore’s clinic on composition. You can catch us play his duo work Secrets We Keep, a piece that shares qualities with Lansky’s Threads but for percussion duo.
Whatever your reasons are for going to PASIC, I hope you attend the convention and support the organization that is helping move the percussive arts forward.