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Artist/Educator Spotlight Feature April 2017

PAS New York Chapter

April 2017 Artist Spotlight Feature

 

Adam Maalouf

 

 

Adam Maalouf is a freelance musician living in New York City. He is in high demand as  a

percussionist and music producer. Some of his recent performances were with established

ensembles such as Ensemble Signal, Pink Martini, the National Arabic Orchestra. He has been an

Artist in Residence at the BANFF Festival and the Asheville Percussion Festival. He is currently

working on his MBA in Music Business from the Berklee School of Music/SNHU and attended

the Eastman School of Music under the direction of Michael Burritt.

 

Introduction

As the secretary of the New York Chapter of PAS, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing my

friend and colleague Adam Maalouf. I was very excited when chapter president Pete

DeSalvo first pitched the idea of highlighting some of the many incredible performers/educators/

ensembles throughout the state of New York. I immediately came up with a list of suggestions

and am thrilled to share a little bit about Adam. From the concert stage, to the marching band,

organizing music retreats, to teaching in NYC, he is extraordinary well-versed and comfortable

in any setting. Thanks Adam for taking time out of your schedule to spend a moment with me

and giving your time to the New York PAS community.

 

KMD: When did you start playing percussion instruments and who inspired you?

 

AM: I first started playing percussion in the first grade. I started on the practice pad with stick

control, playing long buzz rolls and holding down the percussion parts in the school band. Within

a few years I started playing drum set with my teacher at the time. I thought playing hip-hop

beats on the drum set was the coolest thing in the world. Around 4th grade, I made my first trip

to Lebanon to connect with my family there. While there, I had my first exposure to hand

percussion playing the Lebanese Derbekke (otherwise known as the Doumbek). I loved to play it

and it felt really natural to play this type of instrument. I didn't think twice about it and little did I

know that this early exposure would shape my musical and professional interests into who I am

today.

 

One of my great initial teachers, Rick Dior (Based in Charlotte, NC) always stressed

diversity as an essential element for a working percussionist. From an early age I was regularly

practicing orchestral rep, marimba solos, drum set and hand percussion and regularly working

towards an auditions or competitions. I would say that I apply that diversity in the many realms

of hand percussion, and focusing my attention on refining the stylistic details. I would say that

most of my focus in that area went to playing Arabic Doumbek and Riq, Hindustani Tabla,

Carnatic percussion (kanjira, Ghatam) and Cuban percussion (Bongo, Conga).

 

KMD: As a performer, you have a diverse set of skills. I've seen you on the kit, concert

percussion instruments, a plethora of world instruments, and even Cello! Tell us a little about

how you came to be fluent in so many different musical styles.

 

AM: Cello has always been an essential part of my musical being. I began practicing cello at

the age of 5, and continued intensely until attending the Eastman School of Music for

undergraduate percussion studies. While attending Eastman, I thought that my time as a cellist

was over, and that it wouldn't be feasible to maintain this instrument in my arsenal. But after

graduation, and in combination with a developing interest in melodic composition and studio

recording, I figured it only made sense to continue playing rather than ignore this major skill I

had developed over many years.

 

These influences are culminating in my compositional and arranging ability as well. My

newest record "Future Tribe" is an East/West album that combines the world's newest percussion

instrument, the Pantam (otherwise known as Handpan) with ancient musical instruments and

styles including Carnatic Violin, Bansuri flute, Turkish Oud and Nay, Arabic and Pakistani vocal,

tabla, world percussion as well as western instruments like cello, guitar, and bass. "Future Tribe"

will be released on April 28th and can be found on Spotify and iTunes. The record release

concert will be on April 27th, 2017 at DROM NYC at 8pm.

 

KMD: Balancing all of these elements must be challenging. What is you secret?

 

AM: It is absolutely a challenge to balance different instruments. Beyond initial interest, it

takes a great deal of commitment to make progress on one given instrument. The best advice I

can give is first, apply your musicality and technicality to whichever instrument you are

interested in learning, next, go (with humility) to the master of the style or instrument you want

to learn, lastly, practice hard! Rinse and repeat and sooner or later the ability to crossover begins

to develop and different instruments will begin to feel more similar. I first heard She-e Wu in a

clinic as a young child. She said that it should be our priority to develop ourselves as through

musicians, not only as percussionists. That really resonated with me over the years.

 

KMD: As a performer, what advice would you have for young students who are looking to enter

the field of music performance, education, or business?

 

AM: For young musicians considering entering the music field as a professional, I would say

"Get a real job!", Haha just kidding. I would say that making music work as a professional can

be very challenging. It is important for a student considering this path to look deep inside

themselves, their spirit, their heart and to ask themselves whether they truly love making music.

Not passive love as in "I could see myself doing it", but passionate love as in "this is my path,

my life, my work and I was meant to do this". Only when you have the second answer will you

have the strength and courage necessary to make it as a professional in this field.

 

KMD: I know you teach through online resources such as Skype, Facetime, or others. How do

you feel this way of teaching is similar/different to the more traditional weekly in-person route?

 

AM: Since moving to NYC 4 years ago, I have developed a teaching studio of students both in

person (either private, group lessons and workshops) and online using Skype and Google Chat.

In person is obviously a better option for those students who live in town, as I am able to really

shape their technique with one on one contact. Online lessons work great however for those who

do not live near me. Teaching online has opened up my market to the West Coast, Canada, and

Europe. This format works best for students who have a small foundation in technique and

simply need more information. A good internet connection is recommended! I love to teach

because it engages my creative process on a daily basis. I also get to connect to great people and

don't necessarily have to leave my studio. Teaching is an essential financial element for most

musicians. I would say that teaching accounts between 20-40% of my income as a full-time

musician, so if you don't like to teach you may have to find part time work doing something else,

at least at first!

 

KMD: You've been involved with the Percussive Arts Society for some time now. Share with us

what you are working on with the World Music Committee.

 

AM: The PAS World Percussion committee is a group of music educators that are dedicated to

fostering diversity in our musical education system. This mission is more important than ever

these days. It is our goal as a committee to generate interest in percussion styles from around the

world and to encourage artists in these fields to spread their knowledge through education in our

public schools, colleges and universities around the nation.

 

Artist/Educator Spotlight Feature

NY PAS Artist/Educator Spotlight!

The goal of the NY PAS Artist/Educator Spotlight is to highlight the great things happening around the state of New York. We will feature a local artist, educator, ensemble, or program each month.

March 2017

 

James Petercsak is head of the percussion area at the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam ,where he teaches applied percussion and directs the award winning Crane Percussion Ensemble. His students hold professional positions in colleges, public schools, and in orchestras and ensembles throughout the world. Jim is in demand as a performer, conductor, clinician, consultant, as well as, a music industry visionary and personality .He is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor, University Scholar, and a UUP "SUNY Best" award winner. He is also the recipient of the 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Manhattan School of Music, where he received his Master of Music degree. Jim Petercsak is a Yamaha/Sabian Performing Artist.

Introduction

As president of the NY Chapter of PAS, I had the pleasure to spend the day with my teacher, mentor, and friend, Professor Jim Petercsak. It is fitting that our first spotlight feature presents an artist/ educator who has been a driving force in PAS and a source of knowledge and inspiration to many percussionists and educators throughout New York and the world-wide percussion community. The following is a portion of our discussion that will hopefully give the reader a true appreciation of how this outstanding individual has affected, and continues to affect, the lives of countless young percussionists. Thank you, JP, for all you’ve done for me and everyone who you’ve mentored. - Peter P. DeSalvo, D.M.A.

PD: You've had a long and illustrious career as the percussion professor here at the Crane School of Music. Do you see any differences between the students, early in your career and those of today?page1image16624

JP: They’ve gotten better, especially in the keyboard area, and with multi-percussion solos. In the past, students would come into auditions with a two mallet piece, a snare drum solo and maybe a timpani or multiple percussion solo. But now they're coming in with more advanced 4 mallet works, a couple of snare solos in the rudimental and classical style, as well as,

timpani ,etc.
PD: Why do you think that is?

JP: It’s because of NYSSMA standards/ demands and better teachers for starter’s. Students have many advantages, as they can watch video and attend “Days of Percussion” and a host of events to better understand how to perform. There’s nothing that takes the place of when a kid says, ”I want to play drums”. It starts a whole chain reaction and it is good for everybody. Drummers are the most passionate members of the music world, and very committed and competitive at the same time. People who play instruments are sensitive and caring. In percussion, we have advanced more than any instrumental area. Kid’s play better today, composers like to compose for percussion ensembles and soloists, and our standards are very high. Pete.... Look- the drummers in High School are playing Delecluse. Ten years ago, no way.

Kids understand more because learning is easier. You can go online, you can go online to Steve Weiss, and buy music, and hear what’s going on at music schools. There are no secrets any more, and you don’t have to go anywhere to get information. You can get it right at your home. or in school. What we need is more venues to perform. I hope that there will be more community bands, senior bands, and community orchestras, because people love to make music.

PD: What would you tell a young student who is looking to enter the field of music performance, business, or education?

JP: I think there are more career opportunities than ever, right now! Look, NEXUS, made a career out of playing, so now there are half a dozen groups like that around. You have great players. You have great players like Gordon Stout and Leigh Howard Stevens. They played at the first PAS International Convention (PASIC) that John Beck hosted at the Eastman School, back in 1976. That was the start of their careers. They both came across very well. Gordon has written so much music and played all over the world. Leigh has his own company and has played all over. They set the standard. They set a new standard which all of us have had to come up to.

Christopher Lamb (NY Phil and MSM) presented a session on how to perform percussion at the PAS International Conference in San Antonio last year, and over 1,000 percussionists attended. Michael Burritt conducts and performs w/ his percussion group from Eastman and thousands show for the concert. Interest is at an all time high!

There is more opportunity in the industry as well. Many people in the music industry are good player’s, as well as, sales folks. A lot of companies are hiring player’s to work as product specialists, product consultants, and to give educational direction. Great performers are going back into the communities and playing in community bands and orchestras, as well as, teaching privately. So, they have the best of both worlds; teaching and playing. There’s a lot of opportunity in retail, selling electronic drums, percussion, repair specialists, etc. My son, James is a new breed who performs, and works in advertising doing music, and sells music products, all in the NYC area. He studied here at Crane, then at McGull w/ Aiyun Huang and Andrei

Malashenko , then with Alan Able and Gordon Gottlieb .There are many great things going on; a lot of opportunity between business, teaching, and playing.

PD: You’ve been so successful at balancing your performance, business and educational sides. What’s your secret?

JP: I have always been keenly interested in the profession . Growing up in the NJ/NYC metro area music was really happening. As a 15 year old studying in Manhattan with Henry Adler, Jack Jennings, and Doug Allen, I got to meet many great drummers and percussion players. That, in itself, provided all the inspiration I needed to decide this is what I want to be involved in. I commuted from my gig at the Crane School of Music, Potsdam, NY to the NYC Metro area for over 30 years to play percussion professionally. I would be there all summer, and in the Spring and Fall. I did a great deal of traveling and a balancing act with my teaching at the college. And during the year I was doing a great deal of clinics for Yamaha and Zildjian, and then Sabian.... and I was away many weekends, no question about it!

My greatest adventure was the original concept of PAS presenting it’s own convention to be called PASIC. I was the executive director for 8 conferences to help get it started, and going in a successful direction.
I guess my approach is keeping busy doing various things and being interested in all aspects of the music world.

PD: You’ve been involved with the Percussive Arts Society for some time. I know you were president of PAS back in 1976 while I was a student here. In fact, your whole studio joined the organization and traveled to Rochester, with you, for the first PASIC that year. Can you give some insight into PAS then and now?

JP: Once I got involved with PAS it was a whole new world. It was an exchange of ideas on a national and international level. The most important thing about the Percussive Arts Society, like Paul Price would say, “It’s an opportunity to let young people make music and that stands for itself.” Today we go to PASIC and it’s young people still making music. It’s all good with the player- educator- manufacturer working for a common good..... And the way music has advanced, it lives, you can take it in, you can see what their doing, and they always perform new music. They are always pushing the envelope a little further and that’s going to continue.

I think the last 70 years was a very exciting time to be involved in music. You know: technology., the CD’s, the synthesizer, electronic sound , video, lights, etc. all in the last 50 years of the past century. None of that stuff was happening before 1950. And in percussion, being the last instrumental frontier, this was the most exciting time ever. We’ve lived and functioned at a very good time. We had a big influence on what goes on today and what will develop in the future. And I think we’ve done a good job; all of us being involved together moving our craft to new heights. I think it’s going to get better. The new teachers are better prepared, High School teacher are playing up a storm, and professionals are sharing their talents w/students. Teaching is a great business because you inspire people. When you inspire people, you turn them on and there’s no stopping them. There is a great deal of live performance and recording. I wish I could be around another 50 years from now, so I can see how well these younger folks do.

PD: Well it seems to me that you haven’t aged. Maybe you will get to see some of it.

JP: Well, we have clean air and water up here in the North Country, so maybe I’ll be around a while longer. (wink)

PD: Do you find that the percussion world is overly competitive or different from other instrument communities?

JP: I think those days are over. Percussion is such a vast arena. There’s room for everybody. There’s a jazz vibist, classical marimbist, drum set player, Middle Eastern specialist, African drumming specialist, and Taiko specialist. There’s a Cuban/ Latino specialist. There’s a tabla specialist and a marching specialist, orchestra specialists, etc.. There’s a wide acceptance between everyone in our field. We really are a world music category.

And the industry has helped a lot with that, as well. They made the instruments for us and promoted what we do. All the manufacturers have been so supportive and help influenced people to play instruments. It’s a great cooperation team. What I see in the future is more specialization in the percussion area, even at schools of higher education, specialists are brought in to teach their specialties.

PD: Could you sum up your experience as an educator?

JP: I think the most rewarding thing about my job is that everyone always wants to be a great player, but after all is said and done, they accept what they can do best: play, teach, or teach and perform. When we inspire and demonstrate, you're teaching. So the teacher and player really goes hand in hand in percussion. The performing educator and professional performer idea really works together. When you’re young you lose sight of that. When you are older, you see all the people that are excited about what you’re doing, because you meant something to them. You sparked them! And that inspiration lasts a lifetime. This connection between performer/teacher and students who become performers/teachers is like one big family.

 

 James Petercsak and Pete DeSalvo at the Clarkson Inn, Potsdam, NY, February 6, 2017.

P E R C U S S I V E  A R T S  S O C I E T Y  N E W  Y O R K  C H A P T E R 

 

presents

 

2016 New York City Day of Percussion
Saturday, April 9th  @ the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, CUNY 
Open to the public - 65-30 Kissena Blvd
Clinics - Performances - Door prizes - Raffles - Exhibit Booths
Timing, Artists and all other information to be announced shortly