Yamaha Appoints New Product Manager

Yamaha Appoints New Product Manager

On December 15, 2014, I began my tenure with the Yamaha Corporation of America as the Product Manager of Percussion. You can read the announcement here. This has been a new transition for me. Previously, I taught at CSULB in the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music as the Director of Percussion Studies. I applied for the job last year and didn’t get it. I plan on writing more about this transition in the future. Thanks for your continued...
Concert Programming

Concert Programming

I am always looking for ways to improve the concert-going experience. As artists, I think we need to find a better way to attract and retain an audience. We need to think about concert programming and how to put pieces together that will be interesting to the audience and help our students learn about musicality and programming. I have always disliked going to percussion concerts and/or recitals and watching percussionists move equipment in between pieces. For this reason, I generally choose to have three parts on my percussion ensemble programs with minimal (or no) movements in between pieces. This takes some planning, but I think it is a more enjoyable show for the audience. For my past faculty recital (January 31, 2014), I decided to take this concept one step further and play the entire second half without pause. This is not a new concept by any means. Vocalists combine arias into larger sets. The first time I saw this during a percussion concert was in Spring 2003 at the USC Percussion Ensemble Concert directed by Erik Forrester. All of the students were on stage and they played each piece without a pause. Erik was able to control the pace of the program by selecting pieces that flowed together and worked as a larger set of pieces. (He had also done this at PASIC when his ensemble performed in 2002.) As an audience member for that concert, it made a big impression and I wanted to try and find an opportunity to try it out on one of my concerts. As I was programming my recital, I wanted to bring back some pieces I had done in the past and combine them with some new and recently composed pieces. The majority of these pieces were 4-6 minutes and I didn’t feel the need for the audience to applaud between every piece. Voila! I finally had the perfect situation to try out this concept. The program I played was: Red Arc/Blue Veil – John Luther Adams A Minute of News – Eugene Novotney Pitch Drop – Dave Gerhart Circles No. 1 – Martin Herman/Dave Gerhart Warm It Up -Tom Osborne When selecting music, I tried to put together pieces that would flow into each other. I also wanted the audience to have some time to process what they heard without having to applaud. Overall, I was happy with the outcome. I know it is different to watch this on YouTube verses being in the audience but I would appreciate any feedback on this topic. Do you think it worked? Would you have done something...
Technology in the Modern Percussion Studio

Technology in the Modern Percussion Studio...

We are all bombarded with technology everyday. Laptops, smartphones, tablets, and recording devises have had a positive impact on the way I teach lessons. It seems like everyday there is a new app, device or service that promises to change the world. Without going into a debate about which platforms are better, I am going to detail how I use technology in my percussion studio. I hope this article will lead to a discussion about what others are using in their classroom. Obviously, this post doesn’t apply to only percussionists and it will be great to hear what other instrumentalists are using in their studios. Dropbox Dropbox has become my main source of storage and sharing for all of my students. I used to use Google Docs, but it wouldn’t allow me to upload videos. I have multiple folders that I use and share with my students. This is how I use Dropbox: 1) A Folder for the Entire Percussion Program I share this with all of the students in the studio It contains the following documents: course syllabi, the studio handbook, the academic calendar, the weekly schedule, the roster and my lesson schedule It contains a folder for each percussion group. I use the folders to put part assignments, readings, recordings and videos for the specific repertoire we are preparing. 2) A Folder for Each Private Student I share this with the individual student It contains a Microsoft Word that lists the student’s goals, weekly assignments and lesson notes. It also contains lesson videos, handouts and recordings I really like the ease of using Dropbox. I can drag anything into the folder to share it with my students. There are two problems I have found with using Dropbox: 1) If someone drags something out of the folder, it disappears from every one’s folder. (This is only an issue in the beginning when people don’t know how to use Dropbox.) 2) The process of setting up the studio folder takes time. You have to copy all of the email addresses into the web interface. Luckily, this only happens once a semester. The upside to using Dropbox far outweighs the downside. Dropbox is a free service and includes 5 GBs when you sign up. For most people, that is plenty. You can purchase addition storage ($99/year for 100GBs). You can also get free upgrades by inviting people to use DropBox, linking your FaceBook or Twitter account, and leaving feedback. I have been using Dropbox for a couple of years and I have acquired 25 GBs from inviting people and taking advantage of the promotions they offer. Video Video is an important element of my studio, not just to record performances but also to check out technical issues. I use video in a lot of lessons and here are some of the ways I utilize it: 1) Recording Performances of Pieces Once a student is ready to perform a piece, I tell them that during their next lesson we will record their performance. After I record their performance, I put the video into Dropbox. When I am recording a performance, I always record from the front of the instrument. When you record from the audience perspective, you can hear musicality (phrasing, shaping, dynamics) as well as body or facial issues that need to be addressed. 2) Recording Technical Issues When working on technical issues, I prefer to record from the side of the instrument. For example, place the camera at left...
PASIC 2013 – Thursday Recap

PASIC 2013 – Thursday Recap

My morning started off with a visit to the exhibits. I can’t imagine a PASIC without a trip to the exhibits and the Steve Weiss booth. After a quick visit to the booths, I went to see the Michigan State Percussion Ensemble. They preformed the entire program from memory including Rain Tree and Xenakis’ Peaux. (For a complete listing of all of the College Percussion Concerts, check out the post I wrote on DrumChattr.com). After this performance I attended a Brazilian clinic by Marcos Santos and Grooversity. He introduced Brazilian rhythms to the audience in a super high energy presentation. It was interesting to hear some of the early Candomblé rhythms and how they evolved into Samba. One of my student’s from CSULB got to perform on this clinic. (Photos below). For more information about Marcos’ clinic, check out his handout here. Most of the afternoon was spent in the exhibits. It was great to catch up with friends, meet new people, and visit my endorsers. One of the highlights was Remo’s new mesh drum head. It feels like a drum head but has little to no sound. It is similar to what is used on the Roland electronic drum kits. I am interested in seeing how they hold up in a university practice room setting. I will report back once I get a set. I had the opportunity to meet Remo Belli, founder of Remo Drum Heads, as well as check out some of the new drums. (I have posted some photos below). Brad Dutz, one of my colleagues at BCCM, was demonstrating the new HandSonic by Roland. These electronic hand percussion instruments have sure come a long way and the new unit is smaller and has an external USB port to bring in more sounds. Thursday has become New Music Day and there are numerous performances throughout the day. Dr. Eugene Novotney and the New Music Committee has done a great job curating the selections and I look forward to future focus days. I wasn’t able to attend many of the performances, but I heard a lot of great things about the Mark Applebaum concert. Unfortunately, it is impossible to attend everything at PASIC. I did sat in on the Percussion Ensemble Reading Session and got some great ideas for future programming. The list is included in the link above. For dinner, I had a chance to sit down with Tom Burritt and Thom Hasenpflug. It is always great to catch up with friends and I was especially interested I picking their brain about the job opening at CSULB. They gave me a lot of information to think about. The evening concert was Maraca2, a British percussion duo. They played a high energy program and one of my highlights was the new piece that was commissioned from Casey Cangolisi. After the concert was the first annual DrumChattr PASIC hang at Scotty’s. It was fun to meet new people and hang out with DrumChattr friends. Thanks to everyone who came out for the hang. See you next year. PASIC 2013 Thursday Marcus Santos 2 PASIC 2013 Thursday Marcus Santos 2 PASIC 2013 Thursday Marcus Santos 3 PASIC 2013 Thursday Percussive Manifestos PASIC 2013 Thursday Remo’s New Mesh Drumhead Silent Stroke PASIC 2013 Thursday Dave Gerhart and Remo Belli PASIC 2013 Thursday Fried Pickles at the DrumChattr Hangout PASIC 2013 Thursday Michigan State Percussion Ensemble PASIC 2013 Thursday Michigan State Percussion...
PASIC 2013 – Wednesday Recap

PASIC 2013 – Wednesday Recap

It is Wednesday night and PASIC is in full swing. Today was a travel day and I arrived in Indy around 6pm. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the Technology Focus Day hosted by Blair Helsing. The evening concert featured performances by “Emerging Artists.” Some of the highlights included: Stop Speaking by Andy Akiho Performed by Gordon Hicken fzzi by Dan van Hassel Performed by Joseph van Hassel Songs I-IX by Stuart Saunders Smith Performed by Gene Koshinski Rogosanti by James Wood Performed by Garrett Mendelow The weather is extremely cold (as you can see in the photo below) but I am looking forward to a great PASIC. I am going to blog daily about the events. PASIC 2013 Trip Cold Weather – Dave Gerhart PASIC 2013 Trip Downtown Indianapolis – Dave Gerhart PASIC 2013 Trip Downtown Indianapolis – Dave...
Snare Drum Warm Ups

Snare Drum Warm Ups

As an educator and professional performer, I have noticed that over the years, my practice time has decreased for one reason or another. I have also noticed that the older I get, the harder it is for me start playing without first warming up. This summer, I decided to sit down and write out a snare drum warm ups/routine that I could do every day that would take 10-15 minutes. Today, I want to present my warm-up and talk about each exercise that comprises the warm-up. I know there are a ton of other warm-ups that have been posted and written down (see below for a brief list). Creating a warm-up routine is an individual process and what works for me will not work for everyone. It is my goal that you will take this warm-up, use it for a couple of weeks, and then begin to create your own. I know that over time, I will be editing and updating this warm-up, but here’s the warm-up as it stands: Snare Drum Warm-Up As I was putting together this warm-up, I wanted to accomplish these goals: 1) It had to be 10-15 minutes. If it was longer, I don’t think I would do it every day. 2) It had to hit the major muscle groups and technical demands required to play snare drum. 3) It had to be something I could share and continue to develop/adapt over time. With that being said, here’s the rationale for the exercises I chose: A: I wanted to start with 8 in a hand. I have been teaching Percussion Methods this semester (the first time since grad school) and in the Gary Cook book, he uses the term “cloning” when he has both hands play at the same time. The first exercise does 8 in a hand with both hands playing together. Make sure to start at a slow tempo and use a lot a big range of motion to the get the muscles loose. To take this to the next level, use the fulcrum in the back of your hand to warm up the big muscles in your arm. B: Now that the blood is flowing, I wanted to do some singles. I use Tempo Advance’s speed up function to increase the speed of the metronome by 2 every time I repeat this exercise. This allows me to start slow and increase the speed gradually throughout the exercise. C: Next are paradiddles. This is the first time I start to use my arms as I do a wrist lift to execute the accents. To make it different, I start the exercise with triple paradiddles. D: Next are flams. I go back to 8 on a hand and add flams at the beginning. This also introduces the down stroke on the last eighth note of each measure. E: More flams. This incorporates 4 flam rudiments that are very common in the Wilcoxin Rudimental books. As I was growing up, I didn’t practice Flamacues beginning on the LH as much as I should have and this helps to work on them. F: After 8-9 minutes, my hands are ready for rolls. I like to work on double and triple/multiple bounce rolls during my warm-ups so I can work on my fine motor skills. I generally do these exercises for 30 seconds and then switch hands. Make sure that once you start you don’t change the tempo. G: Long Rolls. Just Relax! That’s it. Try...
Teaching Musicality to Percussionists

Teaching Musicality to Percussionists

Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why young percussionists are not being taught musicality? Why is this and how can we fix it? My wife is a flute teacher and she teaches musicality to kids in 6 grade. So why is that percussionists get to college and don’t know the basics about shaping a line? Here are some of my beliefs as to why students don’t get taught about musicality: 1) Percussionists don’t learn a mallet instrument until high school. 2) High school percussionists don’t study mallet instruments with a private teachers. 3) Marimbas are expensive and not readily available for students to have at home. 4) There are too many instruments to learn and develop technique that musicality is usually the last thing to be addressed. And the list could go on and on. I know these are excuses, but we need to address the problem and try and find a solution and the best way to do that is to identify the problem. So, the problem has been identified. Now, how do we fix it? There are many ways to teach musicality, but in this post, I am going to offer up a couple of basic concepts for the young percussionist in hopes that we will begin to think about being musical. As you are developing your musicianship and musicality, remember that the more you learn about music (theory, ear training and analysis) in combination with listening will make you a better musician. Something you play today will (hopefully) be very different if you were to play the same piece in 5 years because of the knowledge and experiences you encounter as a musician. Rule #1: Do Something Just playing the notes and dynamics is not enough. You have to “do something with the notes.” If you sound like the playback of a midi file, you are not doing anything. The only way you are going to know if you are “doing something” is to record yourself. (Check out Adam’s post Say Cheese for great tips on recording). You don’t need a great recorder. Use your smartphone and record yourself once you can play through the piece. Try doing 2-3 performances and see what you like. Musicality is very subjective. But, you have to make informed decisions. (See the paragraph above about learning theory, analysis, etc.) Rule #2: Follow the Shape of the Line One of the basic rules of musicality is to follow the shape of the line. One concept I teach is to remove all of the stems and flags from the music. All you are left with are the note heads. You can visualize this or input the notes into Finale if you really want to see the final outcome. Now, take a pencil and connect all of the note heads: OK, it is time to play this line. As the line goes up, get a little louder and as the line goes down, get a little softer. Now come the subjective part. How loud or soft should you get? That is a good question. I am not talking about getting a full dynamic louder. A listener should be able to hear that you are getting louder or softer. A dynamic is not a finite value. There is “room” within a dynamic to add shape. Record yourself as see if you are actually shaping the line. Rule #3: Practice this a lot! As with anything we do, repetition is key to improving your musicality. I can’t stress...
What are you listening to?

What are you listening to?

I have been wanting to compile a listening assignment for my percussion students and I decided to use Spotify so everyone would have access to it. (If you would like to check it out, click here. You have to be a registered user of Spotify, but you can sign up for free. If you are not familiar with Spotify, I would highly suggest you check it out). When choosing tracks for this playlist, I wanted to include a large variety of material. The idea for this assignment came to me when sitting in a recent master class. The guest artists were asking the audience members if they had heard XYZ composer and 9 out of 10 students hadn’t heard of the composer. I also didn’t want to compile a list exclusively of percussion music. I wanted to give my students a little insight into what I enjoy listening to while also including some pieces/composers that I think they should know. The entire list is about 75 minutes of music and includes music by B. Michael Williams, Michael Spiro, Steve Reich, Darren Dyke, CJ Menge, and John Adams and more. As I was putting the list together, I kept thinking that I wanted to know more about what my students were listening to, so I decided to have them give me a listening assignment. So here’s what I came up with: For the students: 1) Listen to CSULB Percussion Listening S13 on Spotify 2) Write a paragraph about each track Discuss what you liked/didn’t like and what worked/didn’t work CSULB Listening Assignment for Dr. Gerhart: 1) Pick one album 2) The album must be on Spotify 3) Send Dr. Gerhart the Album/Artist Information Write an introduction to the album you are sharing Why do you like it? What is interesting about this album? Why should I listen to it? I am going to try and listen to one album a week. So far, I have only received a couple of submissions, but I am looking forward to writing up reviews and posting it on my blog. If you have any feedback on input on this topic, please leave a comment below. I would love to know what other schools do in their percussion program. I am especially interested in hearing about schools who do not have a specific percussion repertoire class. —– Originally posted on DrumChattr.com on March 1, 2013. The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by eldeeem on...
2012. A Reflection and Goals for 2013.

2012. A Reflection and Goals for 2013.

To say 2012 was a busy year would be an understatement. I celebrated a milestone birthday, saw the birth of Zachary Andrew (our second son) and bid farewell to my friend and mentor Michael Carney. As I wrote on my FaceBook wall, “It is very hard to say goodbye to someone who has meant so much to me and my family over the past 22 years. I was grateful I had the opportunity to study, teach, work and be around someone like Dr. Michael Carney for so many years. Being in the room today and spending time with former students and singing for Michael will be something I will never forget! I will never forget you Michael. May your final journey be peaceful and painless. Thank you Michael! I love you!” I think about Michael often and I am blessed to be able to continue in the role of Director of Percussion Studies at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at CSU, Long Beach. Musically, this was also a big year for me. In January, I signed with Zildjian cymbals and I have been enjoying playing my Zildjian cymbals, especially my two new sets of piatti. I am happy and fortunate to be working with Zildjian, Yamaha, Innovative Percussion and Evans Drumheads. In February, I traveled to Austin, Texas to work with the UT Steel Drum Band (Thanks Tom Burritt and David Saad) and the IronWorks Percussion Duo were featured guest artists on the Southern Utah University Day of Percussion in April (Thanks Lynn Vartan). In March, I began playing a steady steel drum gig at the Newport Coast Marriott. With the passing of Michael Carney, I was appointed Director of Percussion Studies at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at CSU, Long Beach. As a faculty member since 1998 (and as a student since 1990), it has been an honor taking over the program Michael built. It has been a great first semester and I am looking forward to the future. Some of the highlights included the Michael Carney Benefit on September 16 (Michael’s 60th Birthday), Conducting Carmina Burina on the Bob Cole Grand Opening Celebration, premiering Carolyn Bremer’s The Other Shore, and directing the Caribbean Holiday Celebration. For a full update of all of my activities and performances, please check out my Calendar. Personally, Cynthia and I purchased our first house. All of the years saving finally paid off and we are proud home owners. We also welcomed a new addition into our family. At 10:39pm, on October 17, Zachary Andrew was born. Drew turned two in November and is enjoying all fo the Thomas and Friends train toys Santa brought him for Xmas. He also received his first tricycle from Grandma and Grandpa on his 2nd birthday. We are thankful for two happy and healthy boys. It is not my intent to write this post to brag or self-congratulate myself for my accomplishments of the year. My purpose in writing this post is to document my year and have a place that I revisit one day. I also wanted to write down my goals in a public place. I am always telling my students to write down their goals and I feel that being transparent is important and will allow my friends, family, students and colleagues to keep me honest throughout the year. I will revisit these goals throughout the year and write some posts on their progress. So here goes: Goals and Wishes for the New Year,...
Audition Advice 102

Audition Advice 102

Last month, I wrote an article about Audition Advice. We received a lot of good feedback on the post. Be sure to check out the comments for additional tips. I am planning on releasing my tips as a PDF document in the new year. I also wanted to draw your attention to some videos on this same topic that feature professors from Indiana University. We have previously featured “Kevin Bobo explains how to “play hurt” in an audition” from a video series called “Project Jumpstart Workshop: The Art of Winning Auditions” from February 8th, 2011. There are a couple of other videos from this series that I would also recommend. After you have some time to watch these videos, are there any other videos or resources that you would recommend? Let us know. How to Prepare for Nervousness in Auditions How to Face Rejection in Auditions —– Originally posted on DrumChattr.com on December 21, 2012. The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by kj.vogelius on...