BY PHIL HOOD
At the end of May one lucky entrant will be chosen to be Roadie For A Day. The prize: spend a day on the road with Cindy Blackman Santana. The grand prize package includes behind-the-scenes access with backstage passes, a meet and greet with Cindy and, of course, tickets to a concert.
The contest is sponsored by the Percussion Marketing Council. It’s part of International Drum Month (IDM), which runs through the end of May. All month long, PMC hopes to get drummers and non-drummers to visit music stores, find information on how they can get more involved in music, and enter the contest. Look for life-size Cindy Blackman Santana displays with entry information for customers visiting the stores.
Now in its seventh year, the Roadie For A Day program is but one of many promotions put together by the PMC. One of the driving forces behind the event is Dave Jewell, Yamaha’s Manager of Partnerships and Alliances, and a longtime board member at the PMC. Earlier in his Yamaha career Dave wore the hats of product manager for drums, marketing manager, and marketing communications manager. A natural promoter, Dave now works with a variety of artists, programs, events, and institutions to promote music making and Yamaha. I talked with him to learn about the Roadie For A Day promotion and how his industry promotion work integrates with his day job at Yamaha.
Drum!: There’s a lot of territory covered in that title of yours. What does it mean in terms of the work you do?
Dave Jewell: Now as the Partnership and Alliances Manager I work with a lot of different people inside and outside the company. We have relationships with institutions like Disneyland, with the John Lennon Songwriting Bus, and many events. This weekend I’m going to New Orleans because I manage the relationship with the Jazz And Heritage Festival. I do a lot of Yamaha philanthropic work with groups such as Guitars For Vets, Mercy Ships, and the Boys And Girls Clubs. The mission also encompasses music advocacy. I’ve been going to Washington DC the last seven years as part of NAMM’s annual music education lobbying trip. NAMM also appointed me to lead the California contingent in Sacramento on music education issues. In drums I also work with DCI/WGI. So, in one sense it’s a lot of stuff I was doing before because I loved promoting drums, but now it’s my day job.
When did you get your start in drumming?
I started playing when I was 11. Mrs. Mandy, our band director, wouldn’t let me play drums, but I kept begging and she finally let me. If she hadn’t said yes when I was in the fifth grade I wouldn’t be here today.
I went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I majored in marketing and management in business, but I also was in percussion ensemble, concert band, the Black Music ensemble under [legendary bassist] Richard Davis, and marching band. I attended Louisiana Tech to get my masters in percussion performance in 1983.From there I moved to Arizona and began working at Milano Music in Scottsdale. I was there 14 years and during that time I also was playing up to 200 gigs a year. But by then I had two kids and I was looking for a job outside retail. Eventually I was hired by Yamaha as a product manager for Yamaha drums. That led to marketing manager, marketing communications and now partnerships and alliances.
Yamaha has these great slogans such as “Yamaha Cares,” and “Sharing, Passion, and Performance.” How important are these to making your statement in your job?
These are all different. “Yamaha Cares” is our philanthropic arm that is consumer facing. “Sharing, Passion, and Performance” is more of an internal thing. The phrase “Make Waves” is our promise to consumers. It’s a global promise that they can make a difference in their life. They can make waves, break barriers, learn their instrument, be authentic. We take that seriously.
How important are these kinds of missions or ideas to internal employees?
Very important. I’ve never talked as much about our sustainability programs as I have in this job. We have an internal publication called The Pulse. Once a month we talk about social and philanthropic work that the company does. On National PTSD day June 27 we’re donating 100 guitars as part of the 100th chapter opening. I hope when employees hear that they say, I’m working for the right company.
How did your relationship to PMC come about?
I was asked to be on the board when I was overseeing Yamaha drums in the US, about nine years ago. PMC is a driving force trying to seed the market with new drummers. We look for new and innovative ways to get new people to play drums and put a pair of sticks in their hands.
How did Roadie For A Day come about?
International Drum Month used to always be in November. I said “This is crazy,” because from my retail experience I knew that it was too busy in the stores in November. So we changed it to May. It made more sense to do something special for dealers and musicians in the spring and summer. Part of the challenge for International Drum Month is to drive more store traffic and that’s how the Roadie For A Day idea was born.
We’ve had great drummers get involved like Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Ben Smith (Heart), Shannon Larkin (Godsmack), Matt Greiner (August Burns Red), Rich Redmond (Jason Aldean), Rick Allen (Def Leppard), and now Cindy Blackman Santana.
Rick Allen was the guest artist last year. After we announced he was on board, Billy Cuthrell, who owned Progressive Music in the Carolinas, called me and said he had a kid who had come into the store and wanted to play drums but he had lost the use of one of his arms. Rick Allen was his hero. Billy asked if we could do anything to help this kid meet Rick. So I contacted our drum artist relations director Greg Crane and he said “Absolutely, no problem.” Rick hosted the kid backstage in Raleigh, going over and above just hosting the contest winner. Rick was just so gracious and helpful to the program.
So how did you connect with Cindy?
I didn’t know Cindy but I saw her clinic at PASIC in 2018 and I was blown away by her drumming and by her belief in herself and her way of thinking about having a positive impact on society. I introduced myself backstage and right away she said that she and Carlos want to do more to give back and she would love to do that.
Do you have to be a drummer to enter?
No. The winner for Def Leppard was a fan, not a drummer, but you can bet he’s going to be positive about drums.
What should a young person who’s interested in a music career learn from your career about working in the musical instrument business?
Well, I was a working musician. So I would get one gig, and that would lead to another. It’s networking. From that you learn you have to be well-rounded at your craft and good at many styles. You don’t want to be the guy who has to turn down the gig because you can’t swing.
As far as the music products business, we are selling to musicians. If you are out there playing you have the experience needed. If you have a career in music products you are selling to the distributors and music retailers. Knowing what it’s like to be in the shoes of musicians is a huge deal.
Tell me something about Dave Jewell that people won’t know.
Thirteen years ago my daughter got diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. A couple of years later I started a fundraiser called KatrinaKures. We just finished our 11th year and have raised $164,000. The money goes to research at Children’s Hospital of Orange County and UC Irvine. It really fills my bucket with what I do at Yamaha.