Each week since 2016, as creator, host, and producer of Pete’s Percussion Podcast, I’ve been presenting interviews with a lot of wonderful people who have been or continue to exist in the percussion world. I really enjoy getting to share with listeners the “people behind the name,” and I particularly love hearing about the journey of my guests. While we, in the percussion world, spend a lot of time hearing and seeing the professional side of the story, we often don’t get to hear about the “other” things that are helping those in the field do what they do as well as they do it.
As a member of the PAS Health and Wellness Committee, I’m thrilled that this group is charged with expanding the idea of Health and Wellness beyond the incredibly important task of taking care of our bodies for percussion purposes. This has led me to take some of what I’ve learned from my guests over the years and consider this specific question: What are the aspects that are OUTSIDE of our lives in the percussion field that allow us to be better percussionists and educators, along with being better role models, family members, spouses, etc.?
For example, my own wellbeing is improved by getting some form of exercise nearly every day. This is usually the first thing I do in the morning, and it clears my mind to allow me to refocus and take care of my job. And from years of doing the show I’ve learned that my guests take care of themselves in similar ways.
I reached out to eight individuals who have been guests on Pete’s Percussion Podcast (some multiple times) and asked them the following questions:
1. What is one activity outside of percussion you regularly partake in?
2. What role does this activity take in your typical weekly/monthly schedule?
3. What connections to your job does this activity have?
4. If no connections exist, how does this outside activity give you balance and keep you in a good sense of wellbeing? How does it allow you to continue to do your professional work?
The following individuals provided responses to these prompts: Paul Buyer, Professor of Percussion at Clemson University (South Carolina); Nathan Daughtrey, Owner of C. Alan Publications and independent composer and performer; Lamon Lawhorn, Assistant Band Director and Percussion Professor at North Carolina A&T, Brad Meyer, Associate Professor of Percussion at Stephen F. Austin State University (Texas); Sherry Rubins, Professor of Practice, Percussion Coordinator University of Texas at San Antonio and Principal Timpanist with the Mid-Texas Symphony; Shilo Stroman, Senior Instructor of Percussion and Jazz at Colorado State University and freelance musician; Carolyn Trowbridge, Austin Texas-based percussion performer and educator; Alana Wiesing, Principal Timpanist with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Adjunct Professor of Percussion at the University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music.
SPORTS OR PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES
Brad Meyer partakes in disc golf at least once a week as a respite from his working life. As he explains, “It helps me temporarily disconnect from my job. Being able to do a non-competitive/slightly-competitive sport either with friends or by myself while walking through local parks and nature is extremely relaxing and enjoyable.”
Sherry Rubins has been a group fitness instructor for most of her adult life. She has presented clinics and fitness classes for many years at PASIC and has presented yoga and exercise classes within her department at UTSA. She spends 5–6 hours a week teaching classes and sees her fitness instruction “wiring into her interest in teaching,” and as a secondary form of income.
Alana Wiesing lists “running, hiking, cycling, tennis, and ultimate frisbee” as her physical activities of choice. Generally, she says, “All of these activities test and build endurance and stamina, both physically and mentally. This is incredibly beneficial towards maintaining focus and high energy levels throughout practice sessions, rehearsals, and performances. An improvement in my health and fitness led to an improvement in my playing through greater facility, stability, and freedom. Musically and generally, I feel so much better mentally and physically when I exercise regularly.”
Speaking specifically of tennis, as this was a sport she played competitively (and we both discussed our professional tennis fandom on the podcast last year), Alana writes: “More specifically, tennis and percussion have an immense amount of overlap — stroke production, follow through, rebound, velocity, energy and weight transfer, rotation, relaxation, and balance, to name a few. Proper posture, preparation, and timing are critical to efficient and effective play in either context.”
Nathan Daughtrey combines running (as his primary outlet) along with free weights, core strengthening, cycling/spinning, and hiking. This is a morning activity, “starting around 5 a.m. so I can squeeze it in before my 5-year-old wakes up.” He adds that, “Exercising doesn't have any direct connection to my job(s), but running, especially, gives me time inside my head to work through compositional ideas/problem-solving, brainstorming for the publishing company, trial runs at conversations I need to have with people during the week, etc. It also keeps me in physical shape, which directly affects the act of practicing/performing.”
Shilo Stroman finds comfort and enjoyment in all of the aspects of golf: putting, chipping, driving, and walking the course. During the school year, he typically gets in both a golfing round and time on the driving range once a week. During the summers and breaks, he may be able to golf up to three times a week.
About this, he writes, “I find so much solace on the course, and I NEED it every week. It's a huge release to only focus on the game of golf. I walk the course 99% of the time. It's great to be outside with friends who are often in the music profession. It's also nice to walk and talk with people who are having the same issues professionally. Even the driving range is soothing to me. I could practice chipping all day!”
The pandemic has made the importance of playing even more evident. “My buddy and I played at least one round every month this past year — even once starting our first hole at 36 degrees Fahrenheit outside — and played a ton during quarantine because it was fairly safe.”
Paul Buyer also pointed towards golf as an important outlet. “When I was playing a lot of golf, I would practice a few days before a round, going to the driving range or working on my short game so I would feel prepared and in position to play my best. Playing golf has always been a refuge for me — a chance to escape, get outside, spend time in nature, and enjoy the company of friends. On the golf course, you have no choice but to focus on the next shot, so you can’t be thinking about other things. You’re also not very (technologically) accessible, so your mind is able to recharge and rejuvenate by focusing on something challenging and fun.”
He cites another important connection between music performance and golf. “Golf has taught me a lot about intrinsic motivation — specifically, that I am competing against myself and the golf course, and never against other players, since I have no control over how they play. This is the mental game. I have applied this mindset to my professional career as well by working toward excellence every day. Basketball Hall-of-Famer and avid golfer Michael Jordan once said, ‘I’m not competing with somebody else. I am competing with what I’m capable of.’ I am always amazed when I play golf with someone who gets upset when they hit a bad shot or have a bad hole. I ask, ‘So when is the last time you practiced?’ And they say, ‘I haven’t practiced. The last time I played was six months ago.’ Success in golf, like music, is earned, not given. If I don’t make the commitment, put in the time, and practice, I have no right to be upset when I fall short on the big stage.”
Carolyn Trowbridge has combined the physical with the artistic with figure skating. While it’s only for one hour per week, it’s made a huge difference for her life. Carolyn explains, “There's nothing I love more than being swept up into my own world of creativity and expression! Both playing music and figure skating allow me to do this. Figure skating supports my artistry in ways that help me with my creativity, with approaching music physically, and with staying balanced mentally. Figure skating gives me a parallel expressive outlet that supports my career as a percussionist. In both cases, I strive to connect to deep emotional expression and tell my audience a story; play well but move on and keep smiling if I make a mistake; and engage with my audience so they connect with the emotions I feel as I perform.
“As a performer, figure skating helps me connect movement to music. I find that moving to the music physically when I am skating helps me approach my movement as a percussionist more naturally. I initially feel the music and then integrate it with technique. Finally, figure skating keeps my spirit balanced. It's something I've done my whole life; it's kept me stable through the many moves my family made during my childhood. Figure skating, as well as playing music, has always given me my sense of ‘home’.”
It’s not only the physical that keeps these folks focused on their percussion craft. Many other activities also provide a balance for their lives.
Along with his percussion and band-directing duties, Lamon Lawhorn has gotten heavily into videography — both for the university and for outside clients (and for his own professional activities). He explains that, “Videography has played a role in my job since 2016 when I became the director of the University Band media team, M3. I never would have imagined that making personal drum set videos would evolve into video production, content creation and an actual company, KLCreative (LLC).”
Outside of his music and videography endeavors, his creativity extends towards food. He’s been studying grilling and smoking for about 11 years and is still learning tips, recipes, and techniques. He’s fortunate to be able to do this for family and friends once or twice a month. And his activities here share important qualities with music-making. “It’s the process of delayed gratification, which as musicians, we’re all too familiar with. It allows me a chance to ‘practice’.”
The mental aspect is also important. “What I enjoy most about it is the seclusion to self. I’m working at it, and the time involved allows my mind to wander and think. I think about life, goals, projects, etc. Just some good ol’ alone time. Time to decompress from everything and just enjoy the process. This helps me to calm my mind in ways I cannot overstate and remain a balanced individual. Everything doesn’t have to be about music, drums, and percussion. Just live, laugh, and eat good food. We’re all better because of it.”
In addition to her percussion teaching and performing, and her work as a group fitness leader, Sherry Rubins has been a realtor for 25 years. “Real estate is dependent on each situation,” she says. “During the school year I don't typically do a lot of business, or I share with a team member. In the summer I can spend 20 to 30 hours a week on it if I am working on listings or with buyers. I have also sold a few homes to fellow faculty members.”
And lastly, Paul Buyer has long been interested in and has facilitated workshops in leadership. It is a dedicated part of his current activities. “When preparing for leadership summits or talks as a professional speaker, I typically start three weeks before the event. I spend one hour per day writing, rehearsing, polishing, or visualizing. When writing books or articles, I typically carve out one hour per day in the morning when my energy and focus are the highest. I walk 30 minutes every morning before leaving for work, while listening to an inspirational podcast. This helps clear my mind and sets a positive tone for the day.”
The benefits are many. “My speaking and leadership facilitation directly relate to the Clemson Drumline, Percussion Ensemble, Steel Band, and private lessons. As educators, we teach and lead rehearsals all day, but the craft of speaking has taught me to be more intentional about my preparation process and how to develop exceptional communication skills. My writing has allowed me to make an impact on PAS and add value to our profession beyond my job at Clemson. It has given me the opportunity to have a voice for improving percussion education and helping students and teachers solve problems. Writing is also therapeutic and has helped me organize my thoughts in creative ways, which has helped my teaching.”
These benefits can have more specific advancement benefits as well. “Being published also goes a long way toward earning tenure and promotion at the university level,” Buyer says.
The benefits of focusing on items outside of the field of percussion can be immensely important to your current or future career. As you can see with these wonderful folks, they’ve been able to do so. If you’re interested in making it happen, you can too. Stay well!
Pete Zambito is the creator and host of the interview show Pete’s Percussion Podcast, posting episodes weekly since 2016. He is the Assistant Teaching Professor of Music and the Assistant Director of Athletic Bands at the University of Missouri, where he teaches courses in percussion, history, theory, entrepreneurship, music writing, and composition. He previously taught at Lincoln University (MO) and Concord University (WV). He has performed extensively throughout the United States and abroad as soloist, chamber musician, orchestral timpanist, and conductor. He is also a commissioned composer of percussion works, many of which are available through C. Alan Publications. Dr. Zambito holds a B.A. degree in piano performance from Wake Forest University, and M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in percussion performance from UNC-Greensboro. In February 2008, his article, “Marimba Transcriptions of Piano Literature,” based on his dissertation, was published in Percussive Notes. He spent three years as an editor and engraver at C. Alan Publications and contributes frequently to the National Conference on Percussion Pedagogy. His first solo CD, Marimba, was released in 2014.