BY PHIL HOOD

behind the scenesPlaying, teaching, or demoing at the annual PASIC show is a big deal. For many artists and professors it’s a feather in their professional caps. And for drummers just being at the show is the greatest hang ever. It’s equal parts academic conference, marching competition, drum clinic, international trade show, and percussion performance showcase. But to play the show you have to apply up to a year in advance and have your presentation or performance reviewed by PAS (Percussive Arts Society) decision-makers. How those decisions get made — who gets chosen or not — interests me, so I interviewed PAS Executive Director Joshua Simonds about the process.

A little more than two years ago Simonds left the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras to take over at PAS. Since then I’ve seen him making changes to the educational events and the trade show. The Percussive Arts Society mission is to promote drumming and percussion education. As such the organization, and its annual event, are terrifically important to everyone who plays drums, makes drums, sells drums, teaches drums, and cares about the future of percussion and percussionists.

DRUM!: The program for the 2018 PASIC show is terrific. I have talked to a lot of musicians over the years who are interested in teaching or performing at PASIC and many of them wonder what they can do to get in, or why they’ve never been invited to perform. How have you changed the process by which you determine who will appear at the show?

Simonds: In some ways it’s not changed at all. My goal has been that everyone who applies should get a fair shot. That process stays the same. Where I have had an impact is in encouraging more people to apply. I want to know that the people reviewing the applicants get a good view of who is really out there. Then I have to depend on the people of PAS who know so much to make final decisions.

So you have really encouraged people to apply who might not have been thinking they would like to perform at PASIC.

I like to see the pool expanded but it’s really about reviewing to see if are we getting only those who already want to apply or everyone we could get. Because we do this once a year we should be really scrutinizing the people who make it to the stage at PASIC. Many artists we might like to have do not apply which is not a surprise in the drum set world. They don’t know their schedule that far in advance. The same thing applies to orchestral musicians. They can’t know that far in advance if they’ll be available the following November. We want it to be fair to those potential applicants, too.

Where I have had a more direct role is in the evening concerts, and basically working with the chairs for each specialty on the overall program.

What kind of suggestions do you make to the teams in choosing artists and teachers for the program?

You have to balance a lot of things. I go with their decisions. But I might come in and say, “We’re way too heavy here on one style of music,” or “Why do we have twelve of this kind of artist and only three of these other types of sessions?” For example, the staff told me that they get eight concerts for PASIC and that is the way they’ve always done it. But in reality, the people who attend PASIC want clinics more than actual concerts. They come with notepads and they are ready to take notes as well as to be inspired by great playing. So you may see concerts that have more clinic elements in them.

What if the artist says “I only want to play.”

Well, we get some of that. And in the case of some artists that is what is appropriate. A lot of time big-name artists will want some help, too. They may want to know if their approach is right or if they are playing too much and not talking with the audience enough. So we will try to work with them give them feedback

Do you get pressure from schools, or labels, or exhibitors to put certain people into the program?


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Pressure? Indirectly sometimes. But we are working with the sponsors to create a great program. They are spending their money on exhibit space and artists so we need to make it worthwhile. It is a collaboration with sponsors. I actually get more pressure from people who apply and don’t get chosen.

Okay, Let’s say I’ve got a decent resume. I put in my application to perform at PASIC and I don’t get chosen. Why?

Sometimes applicants propose a topic that was just spoken about the year before. We don’t want to have the same show every year. So your discussion of rudiments on the drum set or historical timpani may not make it through our filter. I hope to offer better feedback so people know that if they didn’t get in there’s a reason, and can still work together in the future. They know where they stand that way.

You mentioned your role in choosing concerts. Which one of those are “can’t-miss” and what is different about them.

Well, first we are just trying different concepts. Some people may not like 8 PM concerts so we will do some things on a different schedule at night. We will have an option for those 21 and over where we hope to have bars outside the evening concert. You can have a drink at standing tables.

Having the Blue Man Group for instance — that is not a concert, it’s a performance. We also have Victor Wooten with his trio. We’re trying to make each concert an event. I’m intrigued by the Ivan Trevino Big Trouble concert. I want to see how that goes. Events like the Santana Percussion section with Karl Perazzo. That will be fantastic. It’s too hard to just focus on one or two concerts or events, though.

I’m impressed by the range of clinics in every category-concert, mallets, and so forth. And, also by some of the topics covered such as “Is The Laptop The Folk Instrument Of The Future?”

That’s one of our Music Technology Sessions.  I’m glad you find that interesting. It’s really about adjusting some of our sessions in the future to give more people an opportunity in some way and to hear more viewpoints. You know, sometimes 50 minutes is too long to hear about one topic. We’ve had sessions with roundtable discussions where four or five people get to talk in 50 minutes.  So what are those topics that we can approach differently than they’ve been done before?

If you’re a working drummer or drum teacher or performer in Nashville, or Dallas, or Denver why should you join PAS and go to the show?

The thing about our profession is we are always learning. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at. I can always be better I can always learn something from someone else. If you can do something to better yourself, or your students, or satisfy your audience, then you can come to PASIC and be around other people who get it.

Plus there are all the exhibits. This is an event where you don’t just hear clinics, or hear fabulous musicians, it’s also a trade show. You can go and try out all the instruments. You can meet the people from the companies that make them. It’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else.

Tickets On Sale Now

PASIC takes place in November 14-17, 2018 in Indianapolis. All the details are at www.pasic.org.

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