PAS New York Chapter
April 2017 Artist Spotlight Feature
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.
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
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.