Dr. Daniel Edwards resides in Laie, Hawaii, where he teaches courses in music theory and world music cultures at Brigham Young University — Hawaii. He has received degrees in percussion performance from BYUH, the University of Missouri, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. One of his primary interests is the steel pan, which has led him to commission new works for lead pan by several composers. He has also led steel bands in Illinois and Missouri, and presented concerts and master classes with the instruments across the country. Prior to teaching at BYUH, he drummed for the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii, and taught English as a second language in Taiwan.
Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a percussionist and educator, what career could you see yourself having pursued?
Daniel Edwards: I've worked teaching English as a second language to kindergarteners in Taiwan and found that I enjoyed it. While the work isn't glamorous, I found fulfilment in it and am comforted by the fact that I have a reliable backup plan if music ends up not working out. In addition to teaching English, living in Taiwan for a bit was a fantastic experience, and I found that as long as I'm teaching something, music or not, I'm satisfied.
R!S: As a freelance artist, what's one of the weirdest gigs you've taken or oddest jobs you've had outside the industry?
DE: I once took a gig playing solo lead pan in a nursing home that specializes in Alzheimer's patients. I played some classic tunes such as "Jamaica Farewell" and so on, and the residents then asked me to play "Happy Birthday." I gladly obliged and played another song, only to be asked to play "Happy Birthday" again afterwards. I believe I ended up playing "Happy Birthday" three or four times for those residents, but they enjoyed it immensely each time.
R!S: What's one thing most people don’t know about you?
DE: My first band instrument was clarinet, and I was pretty decent at it in high school. I liked to play in the drumline for marching band and play the clarinet for concert band, and I even placed in a few competitions with my clarinet playing. I ultimately decided to focus on percussion when I began studying at BYUH.
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
DE: My favorite percussion instrument is the steel pan, particularly the lead pan. I began playing steel pans during a difficult time in my life, and I found that playing the instruments was one of the few things that brought me pure joy at the time. As I improved my playing, I found that there are much fewer professional pannists than there are professional marimbists, timpanists, etc., so I decided to focus on pan as a career and an academic strategy. While I do get frustrated with my playing at times, as we all do, there's no other instrument that touches me like pans do.
R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
DE: My family moved around a lot until I was 10, living in California, Wyoming, and even Argentina for a couple of years before settling in Utah. There were no international schools where we lived in Argentina, so I went to school in Spanish. I learned Spanish in just a few months, mostly out of necessity, and I still speak it today.