RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • KoSA Cuba's "Live from Havana" is a Historic First

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Sep 27, 2021

    KoSA’s co-founders and directors wanted to do something different to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their internationally recognized KoSA Cuba workshop. As travel sadly was still not possible due to the flight restrictions imposed by the pandemic, they needed to figure out a way to bring Cuba to their loyal participants this year safely, while simultaneously helping the incredibly talented Cuban musicians who, like everyone else, were affected by the sudden halt of their industry.

    “Live from Havana,” held June 26–27, 2021, can best be described as a unique and historical feat for KoSA Music. After countless trials to see if such an event could actually be pulled off successfully, Aldo Mazza developed a program and a method to deliver live music classes in real time from Havana. The two-day intensive went off without a hitch, and it was truly a life-changing experience, not only for the attendees, but also for the Faculty/Artists in Cuba, as many of these artists had never used Zoom before or ever taught an online class to participants. Attendees ranging in age from 20 to 88 appeared on screen from all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe. For many, this was the first experience learning about the music and various rhythms of this magical island, and what an experience it was learning directly from all these legends right from Havana!

    The program began with a highly informative session by musicologist Dr. Olavo Alen Rodriguez, who presented a highly colorful and entertaining seminar on the history of Cuban music. This was followed by the renowned drummer Horacio Hernandez (Santana), who put participants through a rigorous workout of clave drum set independence exercises. 

    After lunch, the program continued with the legendary percussionist Changuito (the creator of songo), who taught independence and soloing concepts on timbales. This was followed by the incomparable Oliver Valdes (studio legend) who discussed the evolution of songo, as wells as Afro and Latin jazz styles on drum set. The last class of the day was led by the highly talented Enrique Pla (Irakere), who demonstrated how to play Cuban rhythms using sticks, brushes, and hot rods.

    After each class, a question-and-answer period and hang was scheduled with the faculty and attendees. The icing on the cake was the special guest appearance that day by acclaimed drummer Dennis Chambers (Santana) and the esteemed drummer and percussionist Walfredo de los Reys Sr. (Tito Puente), who spoke about his life experience as a Cuban who also lived a huge part of his life as a successful musician in the U.S. He shared his stories and recounted experiences over the course of his six-decade-long career as a prominent and active Cuban musician.

    The next day, the KoSA workshop began with composer, drummer, and Artistic Director of the famed “Fiesta del Tambor” Giraldo Piloto (Klimax), who addressed the concept of the timba style. Yaroldy Abreu (Chucho Valdes) next shared his masterful knowledge on conga rhythms and techniques as well as his approach to playing the guiro. Other memorable presentations were given by Samuel Formel (Los Van Van), who took participants through the evolution of the songo style and his own personal development and approach of this style with Los Van Van. The final presentation did not disappoint as the celebrated drummer Rodney Barreto (Chucho Valdes) gave an outstanding presentation on the influence of funk in timba and Cuban language on drum set.

    Participants throughout the weekend also had a chance to win door prizes thanks to the sponsors of this year’s event, which included Sabian, Pearl, Gretsch, LP, D’Addario, and Canadian Musician. While KoSA hopes to return in person and in Cuba for its next scheduled event — the first week of March 2022 — this virtual rendition was as good as it can get according to one young participant from the U.S., who aptly wrote, “The level of expression and enthusiasm could be felt through the screen, and I found it interesting to learn about the complex culture of Cuban music. Once again, I thank you!”

    For more information on all things KoSA, visit www.kosamusic.com and facebook.com/kosamusic. Click here to check out a short video of the KoSA Cuba 2021 highlights: https://youtu.be/H_TbA0zau7g.

  • The Beta Percussion International Institute by Natalie North and Zackary Truesdale

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Dec 16, 2020

    Beta Percussion

    A worldwide pandemic could not stop 40 percussionists and musicians from coming together to do what they love: playing percussion and continuing their pursuit for a deeper understanding of the art of music making.

    Taking place from July 12-25, 2020, the Beta Percussion International Institute is a two-week, intensive, bi-annual percussion workshop where high school through graduated doctoral students learn from the best teachers and performers in the field. This year’s seminar included faculty members Michael Udow, Mark Ford, Casey Cangelosi, Eriko Daimo (co-director), and Pius Cheung (co-director), with 30 students from Venezuela, Mexico, Poland, Finland, Estonia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United States gathering virtually at least twice a day for the entire two weeks. Events included masterclasses, group composition meetings, performance classes, one-on-one individual lessons that were open to the other participants at the decision of each person having the lesson, a tele-performed composition, and Pilates. While the seminar could not be held in person on the beautiful University of Oregon campus with spacious facilities, the workshops and classes were formatted in a way that allowed all the participants to continue to learn, explore, and study in a creative and inspiring way from their kitchens, foyers, dorm rooms, and in some cases practice facilities at their schools. 

    Kicking off on Sunday, July 12th with a welcome party, it was a fascinating experience to virtually come together in a seminar with up-and-coming percussionists with diverse musical interests and perspectives from around the world. It was especially inspiring as those of us from the United States saw our newly found friends tuning in to the lectures at midnight from Europe or 6:00 a.m. in Asia. The love of percussion knows no bounds. 

    At this welcome meeting, we also discussed our group composition project. Each faculty member guided one or two groups, each consisting of four to six participants. By the end of the seminar, each composition group presented performance videos of their wildly different compositions, complete with video editing and audio production. While one group ended up composing for a can of beans, tape, water glasses, marimba, and snare drum, another composed by splicing short videos of water themed sounds with the addition of a harpsichord. The possibilities were endless, and it was an amazing experience to witness the creativity of the participants. 

    Masterclasses with faculty members showcased performance of a wide variety of music ranging from classical transcriptions of piano works and traditional works by Bach to cutting edge contemporary music as well as some of the participants' own compositions. This facilitated a platform to not only work with the faculty, but also reach out to other members of the Beta community for feedback. In addition, students were able to take three lessons with three faculty members of their choice throughout the seminar. Participants were able to choose to open their lessons for observations or remain private. 

    Beta faculty members presented an in-depth discussion on a topic of their choosing. The diverse classes and clinics were rich with new and exciting points of view that caused us to reflect and think about the ways in which we approached our art. Udow presented a class on many topics including: developing your inner pulse, tutoring those (both young and old) who are new to music, the importance of stroke types, and performance optimization techniques. Cheung’s class on “Three Stages of Music Making” used Bach as the vehicle for discussing his personal methods and approaches to understanding music. This not only focused on the way in which Cheung draws out a graphic notation of the work for creative analysis, but also how he uses this graphic notation method for composition. Cangelosi opened with a performance of his composition, “Big Hair Air Guitar,” which was followed by an in-depth look at the intricacies of the piece as well as the compositional process; he also addressed performance optimization. Daimo’s masterclass afforded students the opportunity to follow along with scores of concertos performed by her while she discussed the many detailed nuances of performing as a soloist with different orchestras around the world. Ford’s masterclass focused on shaping one’s career and artistic voice in the music industry through imagination and vision. 

    Saturday, July 18th everyone came together via Zoom to play and record renowned composer Dai Fujikura’s “Longing from Afar,” a composition brilliantly designed to be tele-performed. Everyone signed in on Zoom with headphones, an additional recording device, and a variety of self-determined tonal instruments, idiophones, and membranophones. After we all pinned his video, Mr. Fujikura conducted us through his piece from the United Kingdom where he teaches composition at the Royal College of Music. The experience was both profound and exciting. Given this global pandemic, it was an unforgettable experience to come together and finally get to perform with all of the participants in real-time after a four-month forced hiatus. 

    The first week concluded with a Pilates class, taught by Eugene gym owner and yoga instructor, Jessica Ingalls. The class was informative in establishing healthy practice, good posture, and the importance of regular exercise especially as a percussionist.

    In addition to the Beta faculty masterclasses, there were also two talks given by guest speakers who represented companies that provided tuition scholarships for three of the participants. The first was a talk given by Ron Samuels, Marimba One president and founder, in which the many facets of marimba and instrument making were discussed alongside the creation and development of his company. The second masterclass was given by guest speakers John Wittmann, Yamaha Director of Education and Artist Relations for the Band and Orchestral divisions of Yamaha, and Jalissa Gascho, Yamaha artist relations manager. This talk was unique with discussions of personal identity, establishing one’s own artistic profile, and branding. These topics were very intriguing for young musicians who are at the beginnings of their careers. 

    A unique feature of this year's Beta was “Synced/UnSynced” by Pius Cheung. According to Pius, “This pair of works was composed for Beta participants and faculty to play and record together as a group project. The question is, how do we play together while not being physically together? As the titles allude, “Synced” uses the obvious solution of playing with a click track. “UnSynced” is music that does not need to line up in a specific way. All players play from the same part with free instrumentation. Part of the creativity is in how the ensembles, or editor, choose to align the players.” Both pieces were written for free instrumentation. 

    The grand finale of the seminar was a virtual concert. It showcased premieres of the group composition projects, the unveiling of “Synced/UnSynced” and “Longing from Afar,” as well as participant performance videos during this time of celebration. Special thanks to the Beta team including Dr. Crystal Chu-Sharp, in charge of social media during the seminar, and participant David Lee, who edited all the videos for the concert. 

    The concert brought together the grace and energy of all 30 students who completed the two-week seminar, connecting people from 10 different countries onto one platform to share their ideas and what they had worked on tirelessly. These efforts culminated in an evening that was fluid and provocative while also illustrating the possibilities of what we can all achieve during these uncertain times when we all cannot necessarily be physically together. 

    Natalie North is a percussionist, pianist, harpsichordist, composer, arranger, researcher, and educator. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Music Theory at the University of Oregon. 

    Zackary Truesdale is a native of South Carolina where he completed his undergraduate studies at the University of South Carolina. Zack is currently pursuing his Master’s degree from New York University.

  • Happy 90th Birthday to Ian Turnbull

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Nov 09, 2020

    Ian TurnbullIan Turnbull, winner of the first PAS Outstanding Chapter President’s award in 1991 for his leadership in Ontario, Canada, turned 90 years “young” on November 6, 2020.

    Born in Worcester, England to parents of Scottish descent, Turnbull joined the British Army Band as a “Boy Entrant” at the age of 15, serving in Europe, the Far East, and the Caribbean until 1957. The following year, he emigrated to Canada where he joined the Band of Her Majesty’s Canadian Guards and attained the rank of Principal Percussionist. In 1963, Turnbull transferred to the Band of the Royal Canadian Regiment where he served for seven years before transferring to the (then) National Band of the Canadian Forces in 1970. After three decades of service, he retired from the military in 1976.

    While serving with the Band of the Royal Canadian Regiment (1963-1970), Turnbull was also the Principal Percussionist with the London (Ontario) Symphony Orchestra. He established the percussion department at the University of Western Ontario in 1964 and served on the Faculty of Music until 1970.

    Ian and Joan TurnbullFollowing his military retirement, Turnbull managed the Belle Air Music Company in London from 1977 until 1995. Upon his “second retirement,” Belle Air Music established the annual “Ian Turnbull Award” for percussionists at UWO. He was also named to the Mayor of London’s New Year’s Honors List in 1988 for promoting music in the region.

    Ian Turnbull became the founding president of the Ontario Chapter of the Percussive Arts Society in 1980. (Prior to that, there had been one chapter representing all of Canada; Ontario was the first province to establish its own chapter.) He organized the first OPAS Day of Percussion held at UWO in London in April 1981. A decade later, Turnbull presided over the Tenth Anniversary of the Ontario Chapter with a three day “Celebration of Drums” at UWO. He also served 14 years on the PAS Board of Directors (1986-1993 and 1996-2001). In 2001, Ian Turnbull received the “Outstanding PAS Service Award” at PASIC in Nashville, Tennessee for his significant contributions to the Society.

    Turnbull still resides in London, Ontario with his wife Joan and continues to enjoy life… and music!

Contact Us

Percussive Arts Society
110 W. Washington Street Suite A 
Indianapolis, IN 46204
T: (317) 974-4488
F: (317) 974-4499
E: percarts@pas.org