RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • COVID-19 and a Look to the Past by Eric Shuster

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jun 01, 2020

    Experiment. In the era of COVID-19, this has been our directive. It has pervaded all aspects of our lives. As a musician and educator, I’ve taken comfort in this directive. How do I teach online? How do I share music with others? What can I make of this sort of artist retreat that I didn’t sign up for? Experiment. After all, this is a setting we all share. While there is always a risk of failure that comes with experimentation, our shared situation seems to come with a license to fail. How bad could it be?

    The thought of teaching a percussion ensemble online was baffling to me. Chamber music is defined as music made in a room with people. I sulked. I went through all the stages of grief. I was ready to give up. How can I expect any of my students to make music? They don’t have marimbas. They may not be able to make a lot of noise even if they did.

    It occurred to me that this lack of resources was precisely the advantage of our situation. In fact, this air of experimentation was inherently linked to the beginnings of the concert percussion ensemble: Roldán’s quijadas, Varèse’s sirens, Harrison’s clock coils, Cage’s tin cans, Beyer’s indeterminate instrumentation, Russell’s suitcase. None of this work had precedent. It was simply work that people had to do; and as my friends in Buenos Aires say, “We do what we can with what we have.”

    As we approach the centenary of our tradition, it is good to be reminded the nature and history of its beginnings:the anecdotes of Bonnie Bird on the first all-percussion concerts of John Cage and Slonimsky on the premiere of “Ionisation,” the radical instrumentation, notation, and scores, and the scrappiness of the early performances. 

    We are fortunate to live in a world with curriculum-based school percussion ensembles and their semi-annual programs. It will be exciting to return to them when things settle down. But we must remember that there was a time before percussion ensemble was normal. And we have experimentation to thank for that.

    Eric ShusterEric Shuster is director of the Salisbury University Percussion Ensemble and head of the percussion area at Salisbury University on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he has served since 2011. Eric performs with the Buenos Aires-based percussion ensemble Tambor Fantasma and the percussion duo Steady State with his brother, Tim. His materials and creative exercises developed for percussion ensemble during COVID-19 are available at

  • Percussion, Pandemic, and Perseverance: Part 4

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | May 29, 2020

    At PAS, one of the ways we are coming together to support each other during the pandemic is to show that we care. In collaboration with the associate editors of Percussive Notes, we are excited to offer the PAS membership a look inside how the percussion community is responding to COVID-19. We reached out to students, teachers, performers, industry leaders, and administrators, and compiled their thoughts, strategies, and responses to four thought-provoking questions that we hope will add value and clarity during this time of adversity. 

    Thank you to contributing editors Gene Fambrough, Marching; Shane Jones, World; Dan Piccolo, Professional Development; Kurt Gartner, Technology; David Stanoch, Drumset; Brian Zator, Keyboard; and Lisa Rogers, Research & Vibraphone.

    Very best,
    Julie Hill and Paul Buyer, PAS Co-Editorial Directors

    What were your initial reactions and challenges in this situation? 


    Jon Ortiz, Doctoral Student, Performer, and Educator, Texas Tech University
    The immediate challenge arose when it became evident that the Texas Tech University School of Music community would not be able to be a physical community for the foreseeable future. The rapport and camaraderie established would not be built upon. It was a true “pull out the rug from under you” moment. 

    Jon Ortiz Clay Hoffner Clinton Washington

    Clay Hoffner (freshman) Music Education major, Bowling Green State University
    One of the first things I thought, like many percussion students, was “How will I practice?” It took some brainstorming on my part to figure out what things I had at home that I could use as practice material. I don't have a 5-octave marimba that I can go to whenever I want, so I had to put my percussion brain to the test.

    Clinton J. Washington III (sophomore), Music Performance major, Furman University
    I found a lot of issues with not being able to communicate with my fellow peers, teachers, family, and friends. I am a very social person by nature and I felt as if I was missing out on a lot of the parts of college that I enjoy the most. Part of my decision to be a music major was based around the idea of working with people, especially those who have a genuine care for music. I was very nervous about how I was going to thrive in this situation, especially since I started the music major sequence my sophomore year. Aside from school, my family had a very hard time transitioning financially and with the loss of a loved one. 

    Taryn Marks (freshman), Music Performance major, Furman University
    My first reaction was, “Oh, it won’t be that bad. We’ve had things like this happen before, and it’s contained, so no worries.” This happened during the beginning of our spring break. By the fourth day of spring break, our school said that we were going to do remote learning for about a week and extend our spring break by another week. I didn’t think much of it. I was super stressed about this semester, percussion-wise, and I just wanted to just take a break from everything, from the news to playing. However, my breaking point was when our university president said that school would be closed for the rest of the year and no one could stay on campus. When I saw the email, I started to cry. So many questions went through my mind at that moment. How was I going to practice without a marimba? How do I learn online? When will this end? When is the next time that I will see everyone? Is everyone okay? I had to take a couple days to get myself together and figure out how I was going to gather all of my personal belongings from campus, as well as adjusting to school going online.

    Taryn Marks Cabot Fowler Simon Metzger

    Cabot Fowler (freshman), BA major, Furman University
    As a percussion student, I could foresee many challenges in continuing my education from home the same way as I would on campus. Most obviously, since I don’t own any timpani or a marimba, I knew that I would struggle to practice those areas of my playing. This was a real shame because those two instruments were my focus this semester. I also knew that online lessons were going to be a challenge. Specifically, drum set lessons would be difficult, because the instrument is quite overpowering for one low-quality microphone.

    Simon Metzger, Bowling Green High School
    My initial reaction to this situation was disappointment. Since the shutdown, I have not been able to play in the high school concert band and jazz band, and I miss that part of my life. One of the challenges that came about from this situation was regarding ensemble rehearsals. Since everyone is at home, ensembles can’t get together to play music, so that was the biggest challenge to face for me. Fortunately, I have a few percussion instruments at home (marimba and snare drum) that are staples in a concert band. However, most high school percussionists do not have those instruments at home, and that is a large obstacle to overcome for band directors trying to replicate rehearsals online. 


    Jake Lyons, “Virtual Drum Corps” Project Creator (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
    Our initial reaction to the cancellation of DCI was a stunned shock, followed by the urge to want to do something. 

    Jake Lyons Sean Womack T. Adam Blackstock

    Sean Womack, Freelance Percussionist/Educator (Atlanta, Georgia)
    My initial reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic were to simply to follow prescribed guidelines, thinking this would last for a month or so, then we would get a chance to see the students again in the last part of the school year. 

    T. Adam Blackstock, Professor of Percussion at Troy University
    My first concern centered on how I could best accommodate my students, in order to support everyone’s continued success. Any studios consist of individuals who differ in many ways: from different states and geographic areas, socioeconomic status, accessibility to technology, instruments, etc. My decision was to focus on a method that was easily accessible to everyone and would not prevent any student from continuing his or her path to a successful semester.

    Eric Willie, Director of Percussion, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    As someone who likes to project and plan, I work from a master template for my pedagogy and overarching degree curriculum. In this current climate, I was forced to return to the drawing board to adapt my approach for these teaching challenges. At UNCG (like many university campuses, I am certain), we were initially asked to respond to a survey to answer the following questions: (1) Do we want to teach our classes online? And (2) Can we teach our classes online? My initial responses were “no” and “no.” The primary factor fueling these negative responses was that I did not want to set a precedent of teaching percussion lessons in a virtual manner. Once a precedent is set, it is easy to return to that model (I am still concerned that, because of cost savings, we may be encouraged to keep this model). For university percussion education, this is a challenging time to progress because of the multitude of instruments that must be studied.

    The largest hurdle I have faced is adapting the curriculum. The undergraduate students are on a progressive path of study, so we had to stray from this model. I adapted assignments so that students could study only the instruments they have available at home, accompanied with listening and video responsibilities. However, to be completely honest, this has been a refresher and has forced me to look critically at my curriculum and how I am teaching.

    Eric Willie Ana Leticia Barros

    Ana Letícia Barros, Performer, Composer, and Educator, State University of Rio de Janeiro
    Here in Brazil, our universities are mostly public and federally funded. We are obliged to follow the government guidelines for classes since the suspension of classes on March 16, 2020. This was the day of the first recorded death in Brazil due to COVID-19. Our first reaction to the government’s instructions of quarantine was resignation and then acceptance. Several teachers continued their contact with students in an informal manner. Many of our students live in risky areas and have few financial resources. Therefore, the close bond between teacher and student is one of great psychological support. We are still trying to care and teach beyond our professional duties. We understand the main challenge of this historical period on our planet: take care and look after each other! Taking care of ourselves and looking after our dear students has become the main mission of teachers in Brazil. 

    Joe Porter, Performer, Composer, and Educator, University of Lethbridge Music Conservatory
    I was shocked and saddened by all the cancelled ensemble performances. The students were working so hard, and it felt like our best year yet! I was looking forward to the concerts. The biggest challenge was what to do with ensembles, whereas moving to online lessons for individuals worked pretty well.

    Joe Porter Dr. Jeannine Remy

    Dr. Jeannine Remy, Performer, Composer, and Educator, University of the West Indies
    My first reaction was, "How am I going to teach percussion from my computer at home?" My students really don't have instruments at home. Some of them have a drum set and a snare drum, but nobody owns a marimba or any keyboard instruments. So, it's been all battery percussion on whatever they can find to produce rhythms.


    Drew Lang, Dallas, Texas
    As an ensemble freelance player, basically everything just stopped.

    Drew Lang Makoto Nakura

    Makoto Nakura, New York, N.Y.; Japan
    I was flying through the Hong Kong airport on Cathay Pacific at the end of January, and that was when I faced the scare of this virus for the first time. Although the plane was quite empty, I saw a sick passenger who was met with quarantine officers upon arrival. I was heading to Japan for a concert and some teaching, and I was going to stay with my 82-year-old mother. I really didn’t want to pick up the virus while flying and give it to my mother without realizing it. While I was staying in Japan, the U.S. imposed a stricter entry restriction for passengers who had even transited at the airport in Hong Kong, so it was clear that I couldn’t fly with Cathay Pacific to come back to the U.S. via Hong Kong. I bought a new ticket flying directly back from Japan to do so. This experience let me realize that COVID-19 would cast lots of disruptions over all of our lives. 

    Stanton Moore, Galactic, Stanton Moore Drum Academy
    Of course, the primary concern is the financial uncertainty; nobody really knows when we’ll be able to go back to work and what that will look like. I'm hoping that we can get back to work before things get too dire financially.

    Stanton Moore David Friedman Julie Spencer

    David Friedman, Berlin, Germany
    My first reaction to the situation was fear. Since I belong to the so-called “risk group,” I was worried I could catch the virus and that would be the end of it. I stayed home, saw nobody, practiced, did some home recording, and watched Netflix. After the first week, I did something extremely productive: I stopped watching the news and was able to totally relax.

    Julie Spencer, Bingen, Germany
    Months before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, I began thinking about what the world would look like if the virus continued as it had from the beginning. When the studies were made public, confirming the contagion factor, human-to-human transmission, and finally surface and airborne transmission, it was clear that it would engulf human society. It became difficult to imagine what my place would be as an artist, in the transformation the world was about to undergo. Music practice was meditative, but composing felt emotionally raw, and teaching felt urgent, to give as much encouragement and optimism to the students as possible, as long as people were still gathering as usual, in normative educational and capitalist structures of interaction, while most societies believed they would not be affected. I made plans like all of us did, for the next performances, concert series, festivals, recordings, private and public engagements, commissions, and lessons, but with a growing awareness of the inevitability of a tsunami of global proportion on the horizon.


    Kwesi Woma, Director of Dagara Music Center and Saakumu Dance Troupe, Ghana, Africa
    Our initial reaction to this global pandemic as a dance company was the fear of not being able to run our study-abroad programs this year. It has been extremely frightening, since this is the only source of income for the upkeep of the center and the staff as a whole. It has been a huge challenge as to how we are going to support our staff financially through this lockdown period, and most importantly not being able to do music and dance for some time now since that is the only way we entertain ourselves at the center. 

    Kwesi Woma Dr. Thom Hasenpflug

    Dr. Thom Hasenpflug, Chair of Music, Idaho State University
    Our art forms require connectivity above all else. Now we see that there are a large number of ways to engage group activity using social media, but this is often an individual recording something in a room, and then sharing to a master set of uploads that are synced together. The connectivity is artificial, and thus the challenge is how to get a sense of performance accomplishment through distance media, without a master figure acting as “compiler” for a virtual ensemble. I think these virtual compilations are fun maybe once or twice, but are basically gimmicky and are just being done because we don’t know what else to do with ourselves.

    Initially we did not have any problem envisioning turning history, theory, even methods into a fully online format. But ensembles were, and continue to be, a whole other matter. We did not see the ability to continue with wind ensemble, choir, percussion ensemble, etc. We didn’t try to formulate “alternate assignments” for performance ensembles. The students had enough alternate learning to come in all the other classes. Applied lessons for most instruments were much more practical to transition than percussion, since our students don’t own the gear, and couldn’t access the building. I should say that’s the same for me; my marimba is at school, and so is my drumset. I have comparatively little gear at home. So, lessons (other than snare drum) are a huge challenge, and can’t survive a long-term adjustment in this format.


    Andy Zildjian, Sabian, Inc.
    We had taken notice of what was happening to our customers in China, and then in other parts of Asia, and anticipated a drastic change in the market. Being in Canada, we had the luxury of an official government warning about two weeks before anyone in the States, so we started taking action early on. The Canadian government let us know that they would take care of our workers, and the way to ensure that was by laying them off for the time being. To give everyone enough time to get the applications in, and for bureaucracies to catch up, we gave everyone a two-week paid vacation before layoffs were in effect. Everyone still gets their full healthcare and retirement benefits, no changes there. We have seven people working at the factory filling orders from inventory and what they craft on a daily basis. Sales and Administration is down to a skeleton crew. Orders are down to about 40% from normal. We’re learning a lot about what we need for manpower and how to be more creative with work cells and better workflow. As a sage friend once said, “When the tide goes out, we see who is swimming naked.” Which is funny, but true in that we can see our own foibles and fix them since we have the time and opportunity.

    Andy Zildjian Jason Edwards

    Jason Edwards, Prologix
    Once it was official that there were COVID-19 cases in the United States, we knew it was a matter of time until we would be forced to shut down our production facility as the virus continued to spread. It soon entered Ohio, and I immediately cancelled all my gigs with various bands until further notice. My wife is a Respiratory Therapist and advised that it would be a wise decision to cancel so I did not increase the risk of exposure to the public at the clubs while keeping ourselves safe as possible. Prologix immediately prioritized our production schedule so we could ship as many quick-pay orders before our last day on March 20. Ohio Governor Mike Dewine issued a stay-at-home order for non-essential businesses starting March 23. The main challenge for Prologix was for us to keep our cash flow moving so we could pay our expenses as they became due during shutdown.

  • Percussion, Pandemic, and Perseverance: Part 3

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | May 24, 2020

    At PAS, one of the ways we are coming together to support each other during the pandemic is to show that we care. In collaboration with the associate editors of Percussive Notes, we are excited to offer the PAS membership a look inside how the percussion community is responding to COVID-19. We reached out to students, teachers, performers, industry leaders, and administrators, and compiled their thoughts, strategies, and responses to four thought-provoking questions that we hope will add value and clarity during this time of adversity. 

    Thank you to contributing editors Gene Fambrough, Marching; Shane Jones, World; Dan Piccolo, Professional Development; Kurt Gartner, Technology; David Stanoch, Drumset; Brian Zator, Keyboard; and Lisa Rogers, Research & Vibraphone.

    Very best,
    Julie Hill and Paul Buyer, PAS Co-Editorial Directors

    What adaptations and creative adjustments did you initially make to adapt to this situation? 


    Aaron Graham, Performer, Composer, Educator, and Doctoral Fellow, University of British Columbia
    I find myself practicing mostly low-volume keyboard repertoire, as well as plenty of practice-pad work. I have been recording myself much more than normal because I have time to review and analyze recordings as well as the desire to post content online as an outlet for creative expression and performance. Like many people, I have also upgraded my audio/video recording equipment as a result of the quarantine.

    Aaron Graham Mary Emmons Amelia Imada

    Mary Emmons (junior), Bachelor of Music Performance, University of Tennessee at Martin
    In regards to my recital, we made some pretty big changes as COVID-19 started getting progressively worse in our state. One week after my hearing, Dr. Jones told me that UT Martin was becoming stricter with the shutdown and that there was a strong possibility that things could shut down completely before my recital date. With that came the question, “Don't freak out, but can you give your recital tomorrow or Saturday?” After a few phone calls to confirm availability, I gave my recital nine days early! If I hadn't given it early, who knows when I would've been able to do it, and I was, quite frankly, ready to move on. Now that I'm practicing at home, I've rearranged my room to have a practice space and have made a set block of time in the day that I can practice within. I don't get started too early so I don't wake anyone up, and I don't practice at night so I don't keep anyone awake (this also ensures that I have time for myself). As for my neighbor upstairs, I just let her know what was going on, and she assured me that she wouldn't be bothered. She loves listening to us practice and has even thought about getting out her old clarinet to start playing again. I've even taken a drum outside and given her grandson a mini concert from a safe distance.

    Amelia Imada (senior), Music Education major, Xavier University
    I have adapted to the situation by finding fun in a lot of hobbies I normally can't pursue due to lack of time. I love practicing piano and flute in my free time. I try to stay out of the news for most of the day, only checking for updates once a day. My roommate and I made the creative adjustment of scheduling "alone time" and "hangout time," knowing well that we could get annoyed with constant interaction.

    Will Harris (freshman), Music Performance Major, Furman University
    What has helped me cope has been figuring out all of the new opportunities that this strange time can offer. Personally, I have always wanted to get better at the manufacturing side of percussion, so I thought what better time than now to start some new projects. A few years back I, with some help, built a five-octave marimba, and a few weeks ago I built a mallet rack that's now hanging on my wall. Currently, I am starting the process of rewrapping and eventually making my own mallets. 

    Will Harris Annaliese Heim

    Annaliese Heim (freshman), Music Education major, University of Minnesota
    Most of my adaptations have come in the way that I practice and the way that I present my material. Now that I am at home with two parents who are also musicians and practice their instruments, I can no longer practice for hours on end like I used to at school. I practice in 45-minute periods and hold myself to complete concentration during this time. I’m becoming more efficient and productive through this practicing schedule. 

    Lily Lee, Coppell High School
    For my music audition coming up, I was planning to play a five-octave marimba solo, but because I am currently limited to a three-octave practice marimba, I had to change my direction. I kept wondering what I could play, given what I had, and one night I was listening to piano transcriptions on YouTube when “Watermelon Man” caught my attention. It was a fun, upbeat, jazzy piece, and I saw potential in it to be something more than a piano transcription. I’ve wanted to make a video with different instruments played by the same person, and I now had the time to give it a shot. For the right-hand portion of the transcription, I played it with my practice marimba, and for the left-hand portion, I used the marimba setting on my keyboard to replicate the bass. I played the snare rim-clicks by slapping against the strings of my guitar, and for the snare part, I used my drum pad. I recorded all of those parts and put it into one video that I will submit. It was definitely not what I expected going into the audition process, but I am glad to have taken this new challenge and for trying something new. 

    Lily Lee Matthew Boyle

    Matthew Boyle, Coppell Middle School East
    Throughout the quarantine I have extended my practice schedule to replace lost class time, and I have focused on my mental and physical technique. I have given myself a goal for each day to get better at what I am practicing, whether it's to increase the tempo or fix my technique. I have also started a practice journal so I can track my progress throughout the time we are at home.


    Michael Burritt, Professor of Percussion, Eastman School of Music
    Because there were so many challenges with the lack of instruments as well as issues with sound quality streaming, I have given my students unique projects like composing solos, writing etudes, and research-oriented assignments. Some have done really creative work during this time and opened areas of their output that will continue. In addition, we have done much more drum pad and accessory instrument work.

    We continued our studio classes by having guests from the percussion community, and we’ve done both lecture/discussion and masterclass settings. Guests have included Sean Connors (Third Coast Percussion), Alejandro Viñao (composer), Jake Nissly (Principal, San Francisco Symphony), John Psathas (composer), Cynthia Yeh (Chicago Symphony), and J. B. LeClere (Paris Opera Orchestra). It's a great opportunity to give my students something special in addition to all of us connecting as a community. 

    Additionally, I put together a special seven-week Pedagogy and Literature class for my grad students and seniors. We meet once a week for a couple hours where they present assignments (on methods and repertoire) generating a robust discussion. It has been a definite positive for the students and myself.

    Michael Burritt Lauren Teel Julie Davila

    Lauren Teel, Percussion Caption Head, Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps
    In terms of the Troopers front ensemble, we were fortunate that 10 out of 14 members had access to a keyboard. For those who did not, we recommended a few options that would offer technique and muscle memory work, one being the “marimba banner” created by Stephen L. Hughes. Having this or a homemade version allows members to participate in video assignments.

    One new project from the Troopers is the “Vault,” part of which will showcase the talent in our ensembles. We have been collecting videos that members have created while in quarantine to be released throughout the summer. These videos include solos, etudes, or exercises students have been working on, as well as original compositions. It’s been exciting to see all the creativity in the ensemble. We are also working on putting together a few ensemble pieces (similar to Eric Whitacre’s “Virtual Choir”), using lot tunes and percussion ensemble pieces specifically arranged for the group. 

    Julie Davila, Middle Tennessee State University
    From a professional-development standpoint, we dedicated several masterclasses to discuss developing websites, cover letters, and resumes, and gave students two weeks to create their own resumes. We shared a few finished products on a studio Zoom call and discussed recommendations or edits if needed. These masterclasses were coordinated so that the conclusion of the project aligned with real-time review from an industry professional. This project will definitely remain in our course rotation every few years. We also adopted the John Wooden book A Lifetime of Observationsto be read and shared in a type of “book club” format. We selected this book because it is an easy read, yet filled with incredible wisdom and life lessons. 

    Fernando Meza, Professor of Percussion, University of Minnesota
    As far as adjustments, there have been many, starting with the fact that we are no longer sharing the same physical space. I have had to become familiar with online platforms that I didn't use before, and that has brought with it a small learning curve. On the creative side, we recently finished a video between us at the University of Minnesota, colleagues from the University of Costa Rica, the Costa Rica-UNED Percussion Ensemble, and Yilmer Vivas, a Venezuelan percussionist who plays for Cirque du Soleil. Originally, I had an idea that we would collaborate on an improvisatory session with utensils we could find in our kitchens. The idea grew into a much more elaborate project, and one of my students offered to write a piece for this new "Virtual Percussion Extravaganza" among all three institutions. The video has reached a lot of people and it has been shared many times, showing that interesting and creative percussion projects can indeed transcend borders and offer a glimpse of hope for everyone listening.

    Fernando Meza Mark Walker

    Mark Walker, Berklee College of Music, Freelance Artist
    Fortunately, I have a home studio where I’ve filmed and recorded lessons and sessions for many years. I began a series of collaborations online with colleagues, recording and mixing tunes and drumming exercises, editing video, and uploading to social media, and this situation actually helped me streamline the process. It used to take me a week to go from start to finish for one video/audio/upload; now I can do three sessions a day.

    At Berklee, the private lessons expanded, and I wound up thinking way beyond what was required. Instead of working only on time feels and rudiments, for example, I would assign tunes and transcriptions. It’s great to see these young players performing the solos I worked on when I was younger. I also assigned semester projects: a South African student will present a report on the music of South Africa, another student will cover the gospel tradition, and so on. Since most drummers have some kind of interface, they can record and film their performance. Some students didn’t have access to their instruments, so I assigned one such student to improvise a setup and post a weekly video about what he found.

    In terms of ensembles, that was the hardest one to figure out. How do you get people to play together? I had to think of what I could do with both a beginning rhythm section ensemble and a high-level jazz ensemble. I tried having them play in class, but it was not very inspiring, so I assigned each of them to write a tune, on which everyone would overdub their parts. They get to write, arrange, record, upload, and promote themselves for future work, so there is a marketing aspect to it as well.

    Dr. Sarah Waters, Performer and Educator, Ohio Northern University
    We restructured lessons to what the students had available to them. Something harder to figure out was the senior recitals, which turned into digital projects. The projects included videos of what they could record at home, as well as a compilation video of past performances and offering self-critique. Therefore, I have a performance major graduating without this “all-important” senior recital video that he could use for further study. Hopefully, everyone will understand in about two years what happened to these kids in 2020.

    As for the academic classes I teach, I had to scrap the syllabi and put lectures online. I settled on using PowerPoint slides with narration. I hate PowerPoint, but this seemed the best way to go with my classes (Non-Western Music and American Music). This also gave the students the option to watch and listen to the slides on their own time, as many of them who are now home are expected to help around the house and secure part-time jobs.

    Dr. Sarah Waters Connor Pickle

    Connor Pickle, Percussion Director, Royse City ISD
    So much of our teaching is predicated upon being able to observe and hear our students perform. Without directly monitoring students' learning, it is challenging to ensure that they are building the correct habits and skill sets. We had to make adjustments and accommodations for students at home due to the lack of resources that they normally have at school. Therefore, our assignments have been focused on specific skills that can be learned and performed with limited instrumentation. For percussion, we have focused on drum pad and keyboard playing, either with a bell kit, practice marimba, or on the floor doing mallet technique exercises. This has kept the students engaged and their hands moving.

    We created instructional videos for students that detail every aspect of their weekly assignments, and students responded by creating a video of the material and submitting via Google Classroom. We use this tool to personalize each student’s learning and provide feedback to them directly. This has been very helpful! It has also provided an opportunity to combine student video submissions into virtual ensemble performances. This has been a fun exploration for students to continue learning music while at home. In the future, we plan to continue using Google Classroom as an additional strategy for engaging students throughout the year.


    Sean Connors, Chicago, Illinois
    Since a very large portion of what we do at Third Coast is performing touring concerts and residencies, we had to quickly find a way to shift these to be engaging online experiences. Our Studio Manager, Colin Campbell, helped to make our rehearsal space capable of multi-camera streaming. Everyone on the team shifted immediately to making Third Coast's online presence a priority, and we developed our "Digital TCP" self-produced content brand, which encompasses our interactive live streaming concerts, online masterclasses, and FAQ video series. All of this is now available on our YouTube channel.

    Sean Connors Christiano Gavlao

    Christiano Gavlao, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    Knowing that I won’t be playing live in the near future, I decided to “play along” with music by visiting websites/channels of my favorite musicians; I can practice or play along with their live-streaming events. Here in Brazil, a lot of musicians are sharing their experiences in live streaming, and I've been invited to do a couple of them. It is important to stay together with all the music and drum community even though we are in a virtual environment. 

    David Friedman, Berlin, Germany
    I viewed the situation as a positive change and decided to use that newly found philosophy to change patterns in my own life. I never cooked for myself, always ate out, at least two times a day. So now what? Instead of moaning about it, I started cooking. I discovered an activity which had a rewarding end result; but, the process was even more astounding to me because it became a kind of meditation at a time where the world was suspended in a condition of constant stress.

    Aside from cooking, I used the time to get more familiar with my recording equipment. I have a wonderful Zoom video camera with good audio, and I’ve now learned how to record video and audio at the same time. I have also started recording online collaborations with other colleagues. I realized that instead of mourning the change in our routines, I saw it as an opportunity for change. I have come to the realization that things would never be the same, which in many ways is a good thing.

    David Friedman Julie Spencer

    Julie Spencer, Bingen, Germany
    After universities began to close and teaching shifted online (with early distancing regulations here in Germany, the curve of positive tests of the virus beginning to quickly flatten, and the health care system here relatively well-prepared), it became easier to build on a more optimistic foundation.

    I placed a flyer on my Facebook account offering lesson packets for online marimba students. I also started composing again and envisioning new projects that wouldn't have been possible without all the extra time. The government provided support for freelance artists, and our finances were stabilized by the end of April for the next half-year.

    I started a collaboration with my son, composing EDM music and learning about producing. I want to diversify my Spotify artist account with new music and develop ideas that have been coming together recently. It's something I've wanted to do for years, and now there's an opportunity. I'm practicing a lot of piano, improvising, and trying some new things with the malletKAT. It has become a creatively explosive time!


    Rich Holly, Executive Director for the Arts, NC State University
    We made several purchases of video, audio, and lighting equipment as quickly as we could to get everyone set up at home. One heartwarming part was that a few formerly not-tech-savvy faculty members embraced the challenge, reached out to friends for recommendations, and then ordered equipment, got set up at home, and then shared with their colleagues what they purchased and how they’re using it.

    All ensembles had to be taught online, and we have quite a variety of ways in which those are being handled. Conductors found ways to keep the students engaged and learning, including having Zoom sessions with nationally-recognized performers so the students could learn from professionals.

    We're working through our challenges, and we've become therapists for our students, parents, alumni, patrons, and donors. It's common for our ticket office people to be on the phone for 20 minutes while the reason for the call was to refund a ticket, typically a two- or three-minute transaction. We've really had to employ a significant amount of empathy and be patient and caring well beyond what we normally do.

    Rich Holly Donna Bohn

    Donna Bohn, Chair of Arts and Humanities, MidAmerica Nazarene University
    We had to get used to using Zoom for lessons and learn how to adjust the settings to hear the various instruments and voice well. Varying levels of internet access and technology was a problem, and assignments had to be adjusted for these issues, particularly in the music technology area and classes using Finale. We were able to continue using on-the-ground resources such as a theory workbook utilizing programs on the iPad, converting student pictures of completed homework into pdfs that were able to be graded using the Apple pencil. Screen and voice recording with staff paper on the iPad worked well for conveying theory concepts quickly and easily.


    Andy Zildjian, Sabian, Inc.
    We have been changing our marketing over the last year to be more inclusive with our customers, and with this sudden change we have accelerated that transition. The SEN (Sabian Education Network) has been doing more online community building and educating our friends in how to be online educators. We have at least one live event on social media per weekday starting on Mondays, with our Band and Educational manager Mark Reynolds talking with his friends in the Marching and Education areas. Tuesdays are “happy hour” chats between Chris Stankee, our Artist Relations leader, and two artists talking about drumming, touring, and things at home. On Wednesdays, Mark Love helps players who have questions about how to get the voice they’re looking for in a show called “Your Voice, the Right Choice.” He takes questions about cymbal sounds and walks around the vault giving advice, helping players pick the right cymbal for their needs. Thursdays we have our “Educator Spotlight,” hosted by the ever-popular Dom Famularo. He introduces the audience to educators who have distinguished themselves but may not yet be household names. Fridays, we round it out with Joe Bergamini hosting a SEN roundtable aimed at building the educator community and helping educators better themselves and their presentations, be it online or in person. 

    Andy Zildjian Garwood Whaley

    Garwood Whaley, Meredith Music Publications
    Fortunately, many of our most popular titles are published as both hard copy and eBooks. Since most schools and universities held classes online, these materials were readily available. We did begin accelerating the transformation of hard copy into eBooks. We received many requests for digital content, which we are moving forward with.

Contact Us

Percussive Arts Society
127 E. Michigan Street Suite 600
Indianapolis, IN 46204
T: (317) 974-4488
F: (317) 974-4499