PASIC 2013 – Thoughts from a first-timer

by Stephanie Mobley

PASIC2013LogosIn a nutshell, PASIC 2013 was a celebration of creativity and invention. As a first time attendee, I was truly amazed by  the intense dedication and warm camaraderie shown within the percussion community. Professors and performers alike had a great appreciation and admiration for students. Practically, everyone I met encouraged, challenged, and spurred me on in my own drumming adventure.

A session of percussive manifestos kicked off day one calling musicians from all shapes and sizes to revitalize curriculums and create a progressive percussive culture. This was a refreshing call for myself. As a classically trained musician, it was refreshing to hear the panelists speak with great respect and admiration to the excellent repertoire of ages past, yet stoke a fire for new music, new instruments, new representations of today’s society.

That afternoon, I had the pleasure of sitting in a clinic with Ralph Humphrey, who currently performs for the hit TV show, Dancing with the Stars. Ralph spoke extensively on the value of practicing. He repeatedly stated that you can’t be thinking about stickings, techniques, and dynamics when you’re performing. All of those things need to be refined during practice times. Otherwise, the ability to respond and communicate musically in a performance will greatly suffer. It’s not possible to be a part of the music if you’re constantly distracted with playing fundamentals. This was excellent words of wisdom and gave me a good perspective of why it is important to practice. It also mentally prepared me for the next performer…

Ever since I was ten, when I heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I immediately sang along with lead singer, Anthony Keadis. That was until I saw drummer Chad Smith play that evening. His approach to playing  was pure, raw, passionate drumming. In so many respects, he threw caution to the wind and played without restraint or inhibition, yet with such skill and impeccable rhythm that this guy knew exactly what he was doing.  As he finished up his clinic he left me with some good words of wisdom. He said that we all need to just play! Stop the excuses and play! As a student of drumming that often gets caught up in the anxieties of playing, I appreciated the candid advice not to lose sight of one crucial element of being a musician… playing music.

Day two started off with a session from sociologist – er, I mean – world music drummer Scott Kettner. (This man was groundbreaking to me.) Truly a sociologist at heart in my opinion, he immersed himself into the Macatu culture of Brazil for several years. He must’ve been Macatu in a previous life. Thanks to five years of Latin, I was able to understand at least some of the cultural words he used to illustrate the Macatu religion, ceremonies, and societal structure and drumming rhythms. It was truly amazing listening to him merge these two independent drumming worlds of the Macatu and the modern drum kit into one timeless groove.

All that took place just before Jason Bittner, drummer for Shadow’s Fall & Anthrax, who melted my ears Thursday evening. He left me in the dust. For the love of milk, my brain struggled to comprehend what rhythms he played! I tried not to blink for fear I might miss something. He was very clever and very fast; the roadrunner of metal drumming.

Much later that night, Mike Mainieri’s  haunting vibraphone rendition of Norah Jones “Don’t Know Why”  chilled me to the bones. Melody effortlessly poured from this man’s compositions of exquisite color as he floated above the keys. His playing was so filled with emotion and truly one of the highlight of the convention for me.

His comrades-in-arms that evening were soultry sax crooner, Rob Dixon, with killer bass lines from Brandon Meeks, hand drum stylings of Aaron Serfaty, mad keys from Steve Allee, and the solid core of Peter Erskine.

Peter Erskine played Friday night with incredible sensitivity and skill. His effortless communication with his bandmates amazed me; as well as, the amount of fun this man was having. He didn’t stop smiling the whole time. He was one of the most joyful musician I have ever seen.

On Saturday night Wilco drummer, Glenn Kotche, entranced the entire audience. His playing was hypnotic. I was quickly lured into the amazing compositions that emanated from his drum set, which looked like the work of a  mad scientist’s laboratory. I heard sounds and musical concoctions that I didn’t even know existed. Glenn’s piece of advice to beginners was to practice and play as much as possible, and to grow “big ears”.  He encouraged us that time practicing tympani, marimba, and other percussion instruments all contribute to developing as well-rounded drummers. After experiencing Glen’s clinic, I’ve decided to become soak up everything and anything I hear; to really internalize, think, dream, articulate, and communicate sounds into endless possibilities. This could be the start of something big in my own musical journey as a drummer and percussionist.

Thanks to PASIC 2013, my drumming world just got really huge. I’m extremely thankful for master artists who stretch our ear drums and imaginations towards greater heights. The event is an excellent display of percussion from all music genres. I return home embracing a new ambition to overcome my musical obstacles, and to pursue a new vision of growing as a drummer and percussionist.