PASIC 2012 Show Report
In keeping with recent tradition, the 2012 Percussive Arts Society’s International Convention featured an impressive array of clinics, performances, and competitions, in addition to the often-thunderous exhibit hall. Returning to Austin, Texas for the first time since 2008, highlights of the show included a Marching Percussion Festival featuring more than 100 entrants, performances by such luminaries as the US Marine Band Percussion Section and the Pedrito Martinez Group (with special guest Steve Gadd), a packed-house clinic by New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore, and Scott Johnson of the Blue Devils Drum & Bugle mirroring warm-up routines with any young convention attendees brave enough to step up to the challenge.
On the expo floor, there was a palpable ambience of camaraderie among exhibiting manufacturers and suppliers. “Without question, the best thing about PAS is that it’s like a family reunion,” confirmed mallet maker Mike Balter. “You get to renew old friendships, and also establish new friendships. There’s one person I was just speaking with who mentioned that this is the 35th year we’ve seen each other at these shows.”
‘People Seem to be Really Glad to be Here’
Some initial reports from exhibitors were mixed, with fears that Superstorm Sandy – which walloped the East Coast several days before PASIC began – would prove to be a significant damper on the show. Ultimately, even though the storm did force several late arrivals among exhibitors and a handful of cancellations by East Coast-based clinicians, the event still bustled with excitement and enthusiasm for the gamut of percussive arts, from marching to world and everything in between.
“People seem to be really glad to be here, especially in view of what’s happening on the East Coast,” said Alfred’s Music Publishing’s Dave Black. “The buzz seems to be really good, and we’re here in Texas, which is a big music state.” Austin is always a welcoming destination for this sort of gathering, given the prominence of percussion ensembles in school music programs in the state of Texas, the incredible musical backdrop of Austin itself, not to mention a respite from the cooling temperatures (and storms!) for those traveling from Northern states. “It’s always good when [PASIC] comes back to Austin,” agreed New York-based Angelo Arimborgo of Latin Percussion. “We love this town. Overall, it’s always a good show in Austin.”
Most exhibitors MMR spoke with were pleased with attendance and sales on the show floor, and hgappy to once again partake in this annual get-together for the drumming community. PAS officials reported attendance of over 6,000, representing a significant up-tick from last year’s official tally of 5,100. It was also the most attendees since 2008, the last time PASIC was held in the Lone Star State. There were more than 120 clinics and sessions, with a final count of 113 exhibitors (down a single exhibitor from both 2011 and 2010 totals) on the expo floor. As has been the case over the last few years, there were several notable companies absent from the PASIC exhibit hall, and this year there appeared to be slightly more vacant space relative to recent PAS shows in the Indianapolis Convention Center. Several exhibitors who preferred to remain anonymous expressed frustration with that, but mostly in terms of how companies are missing out by not attending.
Many others, however, were brimming with excitement. “PASIC 2012 is great,” gushed Dynasty’s Mark Reynolds. “PAS always does such a great job of putting this show together, and the exhibit hall looks [excellent]. They’ve also done a great job putting together clinics – this is probably the best job I’ve seen in the past seven years.”
As with every convention, some exhibitors will grumble about lack of interest while others bask in attention. “For us, it’s been a great show,” said Sam Bacco of Cooperman Company. “People have a lot of interest in our sticks and drums. I have talked to some of my other manufacturing friends and they seem like they aren’t getting as much interest, but I’m not sure if that’s just the luck of the draw or what. We’re doing really well and we’re really happy to be here.”
Most importantly, there was no shortage of players browsing booth offerings and keeping the noise monitors busy. “Every PASIC is exciting, and this year is no exception,” said Ray Wint of Universal Distribution. “We’ve got lots of very enthusiastic drummers here, and we’re glad to see them!”
As far as products go, there were a handful of independent companies looking to find a market for innovative versions of accessories like earplugs and drumhead tuners. Most established manufacturers were saving major unveilings for the 2013 NAMM show, but they still took full advantage of PASIC’s targeted audience to showcase their latest marching, concert, and World percussion products and accessories already in the marketplace.
The Ludwig booth prominently displayed hardware from the company’s new Atlas line. Bob Henry, national sales manager, noted, “It’s being very well received. This is our first year of introducing it. Coming up at NAMM, we’ll be showing some of the next stages of the Atlas hardware, which will include mounting hardware and lots of other stuff. What we have here is kind of a carryover of what we had at last year’s NAMM.”
One of the few companies to debut products that aren’t yet in the catalog or on store shelves is Zildjian, which uses the high concentration of young percussionists to get a feel for new model prototypes. “PASIC is fantastic this year,” said Paul Francis, Zildjian director of Research and Development. “Traffic has been very busy, and this is just a fantastic event to share education, product news, and overall drummer love. We are showing some great new products. We always bring prototypes [to PASIC] to test the waters. [These prototypes] run the gamut from some trashy Ks, some new alloy cymbals that have a lower tin content than the Zildjian alloy, which creates a bright sound, to some great little China cymbals and special effects stuff.”
On the World music end of the spectrum, Remo was showing off its new Versa hand drums, a nesting three-drum set with interchangeable heads that pop on and off with a quick twist of a key on two lugs, one on each side of the drum. “There are medium, high, and low-pitched heads,” explained Remo’s Chalo Eduardo. “All three heads fit on any of the three drums, and to switch them, you just pop off the heads and then pop them onto a different drum. This is the result of 55 years of drumhead innovation and drum technology.”
Crystal Morris of Gator Cases noted that it was exciting to have so many different types of percussive instruments all gathered in one place. “PASIC 2012 has been a great show,” she said. “It’s fabulous to see all of the enthusiasm for music, and all of the young players coming here to see what’s hot and play different instruments. There are a lot of great [products] here from many manufacturers, but more than anything [attendees are excited about] walking around and getting to try the different instruments.” Gator was introducing a new line of drum cases, the Evolution Series, that stack flat, lock for shipping, and, most importantly, keep drums “very safe.”
On the publishing front, Alfred’s Dave Black, who was honored with the 2012 PAS President’s Industry Award, was eager to show off Alfred’s new “interactive catalog.” This innovative technology blends digital and print media: by scanning a product featured in the print catalog with a smartphone, as one might scan a QR code, an associated video that discussed the item in more detail would be downloaded and begin playing on the phone’s screen, essentially bringing the print ad to life.
In addition to Black, other honorees at PASIC ‘12 included John Bergamo, Hal Blaine, David Garibaldi, and Gordon Stout, who were inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, which recognizes outstanding accomplishments and continued work in the percussion world. Kathleen Kastner was given the Outstanding PAS Service Award, and the Outstanding PAS Supporter Award went to Christopher Smith. The PAS Australia Chapter was recognized with the Outstanding PAS Chapter Award, and the PAS Lifetime Achievement Award in Education was given to Marty Hurly and Alan Shin for their contributions in the field of percussion education.
The marching competition featured some outstanding Texas talent, as Texas Christian University took the top spot in the college marching field, Marcus High School edged out Flower Mound High School in the high school marching division, and Cedar Park High School won top honors in the high school standstill competition.
In 2013, PASIC is slated to return to the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, home of the PAS headquarters and Rhythm Discovery Center, from November 13-16.