SWHS drum ensemble perform at PASIC

Nov. 23—Boom! Pop! Clang! Percussion is one of the most popular and oldest forms of making music and students at Southwestern High School got to show off their musical skills at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) in Indianapolis, Indiana. The event comprises concerts, games, exhibits, and networking opportunities, and some call it the "most important event in the drum universe."

Director of percussion and assistant band director at Southwestern High School Adam Hopper has been teaching music in the Pulaski County School system since 2009. He was ecstatic that his students got to attend the event which he described as "just a three-day weekend of drum 'nerdiness.'"

Hopper feels percussion is more than just learning the instrument itself, but also an understand of the cultural importance of rhythm.

"What's great about the study in and of itself is that percussion... every culture in the world has got some indigenous kind of drumming. So when they're learning how to do this stuff, they're learning all these different components from all over different parts of the world," Hopper said. "Our little section of the world... it's not the most diverse part of the country, so this gives these kids the opportunity to learning about life beyond Pulaski County."

The group of kids he trained for the event were his students since they were in sixth grade. Hopper claims that, in that time, the kids have "basically learned all the [percussion instruments we have."

While all the band students were invited to attend PASIC, seven of them performed in the Chamber Percussion Contest which had percussion students go head to head and show off what they had learned—without the aid of a conductor.

The students performed a piece by composer and percussionist Ivan Trevino called "A Spiral Made of Wires." The piece was unique because it had previously only been performed once before.

"I think we're the second people to ever play it," said Hopper.

The kids had been practicing the piece for several weeks, going "above and beyond" to learn the piece in time for the performance. They got to perform the song in front of Trevino himself and placed 8th out of 10 in the contest.. But were they nervous? Hardly.

"I knew they had it," said Hopper. "I never worry about the kids doing bad. I worry about a kid walking away from a performance feeling like they could have done better."

While the piece was performed to show of percussion, the piece exhibits a part for an electric guitar. Hopper knew for this part, the team would have their success guaranteed.

"We have a young man... a very gifted guitar player. By virtue of having somebody that's that capable on the guitar and being able to actually read music and be a musician... that's pretty rare," said Hopper.

Overall director for the Southwestern High School band Austin Gilliatt recounted how impressed he was with the young percussionists' performance.

"It was amazing. This batch of kids, this was an all new experience for them. None of them have been to PASIC before, so it was really fun to see them take it all in," he said. "To see their eyes open up was really fun to see."

Both Hopper and Gilliatt found their students' resilience and dedication to be the most inspiring part of the event.

Said Hopper, "They're just tough kids. There's zero reason for these kids to be good, but they are. They're great. They're hard workers."