by Huei-Yuan Pan
My path as a professional musician has taken me down many different roads, but the experiences most meaningful to me are all connected by a common thread: the idea of connecting with others.
This has been especially pertinent during my exploration into the world of digital content creation this past year. While I’ve become more aware of the idea of “connecting” online, it’s not something entirely new for me. The same principle holds true for all the traditional work I’ve done as a professional musician up to this point. Whether it’s performing on a concert, teaching a class, premiering a new composition, or publishing a new video or article, we express ourselves through our work as musicians. Eventually, the loop is completed when someone receives and consumes the content.
Author Lee Higgins shares a number of case studies on how community music is experienced in formal and informal musical settings in his book, Community Music: In Theory and in Practice. One particular community I have long been passionate about has been the percussion community, and we are certainly a testament to a culture where teaching and learning of music occurs in a variety of formal and informal settings.
Now, with the global reach and literally infinite space that is the internet, we are afforded the access to facilitate, share and recognize the work of musicians across time and space. I think this is absolutely incredible.
In this post, I share some behaviors, values, and beliefs that I think are common to those who are positively contributing to the percussion community. Which of these do you do?
CONNECT WITH OTHERS
The percussion community is filled with interesting people. I once heard Owner and Founder of Lot Riot, Matt Verburg, mention in an interview that the smartest, funniest, coolest, most caring people he knew were part of the percussion community. Though these traits are obviously not exclusive to percussionists, his perspective resonated with me because I could immediately associate specific people in my life with each of the positive personal traits.
So much of my identity and personality are rooted in my experiences as a percussionist. There’s something about the sense of humor, attention to sound, or constant tapping that links us all together. Go to a party with two drummers who don’t know each other, and within minutes, they are fast friends. Go to a party with all drummers...be prepared to make amends with the neighbors the next morning.
Over Christmas break last year, I received a direct message on my Instagram from some guy named Karldrumtech. We had lightly engaged with each other’s content online. At some point, we figured out that we were geographically pretty close to each other.
Though we didn’t know each other, he reached out to me to connect. I remember not knowing what to think at the time, but in the end, I figured why not? We met up and shared our experiences. Karl is one of the first people I connected with online who I now consider a friend in “real life.” How amazing to connect with a member of the percussion community that is doing so much good?
Take Action: You may be spectacular at lurking from a distance, but if you enjoy someone’s work, tell them! Send them a note via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. The access to people has never been easier than it is now, and a positive note from you just might make their day. As people create content, consumers are also part of the feedback loop when they like, comment, and share.
USE YOUR VOICE
Everyone has a unique perspective. All the experiences you’ve had in your life are unique to you. There is only one “you.”
Our ability to use our voice to express ourselves is one of the most powerful gifts we possess. It can be done to inform, entertain, inspire or just create dialogue. One of my favorite springs of online content right now is coming from @liquidrum. Todd Meehan has managed to combine two of my favorite mediums: percussion and comedy. Through his channel of videos, we watch him inform and entertain - ridiculous or genius? My opinion, ridiculously genius.
Take Action: The easiest thing to do is to “like” someone’s post. But through a comment, you can voice your opinion. If the idea of being the one creating content seems daunting, I challenge you to just do it. Think about the kind of content you can most easily create; shoot a short a clip of you playing, teaching, whatever it is you do. Don’t get hung up on wanting it to be perfect, and realize that sharing a work-in-progress can be just as inspiring. You have a voice. Be confident that it matters, and use it.
“Punched in the belly, head-bobble.”
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
We’ve established that you have a voice. You have ideas, original thoughts, opinions. Instead of keeping them to yourself, sharing these ideas with others is the beginning of creating dialogue, and potentially generating more new ideas.
A new channel/podcast I’ve recently stumbled across is @percussion, a podcast hosted by Casey Cangelosi and friends where they interview a long list of incredible talent and contributors to the percussion community. I’ve just started and only watched a few episodes, but this is a perfect example of how online community can be connected and created without geographic limitations. Ideas and information are recorded and shared at scale. Everyone knows something that, if shared, could benefit other people in the world.
Take action: Combine the first two ideas of connecting with others and using your voice. You can write, play, do anything that is “you.” If you want to ease into it, begin by sharing other community member’s work. “DJ-ing” other people’s content is another way to express your thoughts and connect the community. Consider The Gridbook Series and their weekly #featurefriday, where they share people performing in the Instagram community. They use their platform to share the voices of other people, inspiring the creators and consumers of the community to “hustle hard, get better!”
Whether it’s performing, teaching, composing, etc. what you do and how you do it makes a dramatic shift when it’s done in service of others. This doesn’t mean you have to be a saint. Ask yourself, how is what you’re doing helping others? Even if you help only 1 person a day, that’s 365 people you’ve helped in a year.
You could offer to help a classmate who’s struggling with a piece of music. You could send a quick note to encourage someone. Beetle Percussion has combined their love for percussion, artisan woodwork, and the environment to create unique products that serve the community and planet. I first came across them on Instagram, but since following them, I’ve seen how their ecological awareness has seeped into other parts of my day-to-day life. They are also avid practitioners of using their voice and sharing.
Take action: you may not realize this, but everyone has the power to inspire others. You don’t have to be in a position of authority or even a certain level of recognition. My students and the people I meet online inspire me all the time.
UPLIFT THE COMMUNITY
In short, try to make the world a better place. My professor once told me there are only two types of people, “those who bring the vibe up, and those who bring the vibe down.” There is no neutral, so just consider how everything you put out into the community will either contribute or detract from the positive energy that already exists.
The percussion community is already a very active and positive support network, with lots of people posting and sharing. Those of us who have been in it for awhile quickly realize just how small of a pond it is. A little positive energy and action from you can go a long way.
Take action: again, this can be done through performance, education, comments, shares, likes - the list goes on and on. If everyone made a concerted effort to pat just one person on the back once a day, think about how much good could be done over time.
Lot Riot’s mission statement shares, “The Lot is the place where you don’t see uniforms, you see the talent and the heart.”
Use your voice, connect with others, share your thoughts, serve others, and uplift the community. We’re all people, sharing our love for percussion and music.
Thanks for reading! :) How will you contribute to the community today? If you enjoyed the post, use the social share buttons near the top of the post. It would mean a lot to me, and it helps other people see the story.
Special thanks to Matt and the Lot Riot family for the opportunity to share my voice with the percussion community. Be sure to check out their weekend offers for the latest gear.
Huei-Yuan Pan is a Los Angeles based musician via Chicago, originally from Houston. His drum corps experience includes performing with the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps (Snare, 2001) and The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps (Snare, 2002-2003; Front Ensemble, 2004). From 2008-2011, Huei served as Director and Arranger for Green Thunder Percussion, and in 2012-2013, Percussion Caption Head with the Phantom Regiment. He is currently the Director of the Jumpstart Young Musicians Program at The Colburn School in downtown Los Angeles. For more on Huei, click here.