School of Music, Theatre and Dance

OU students, faculty and alumni participate in virtual PASIC

Percussive Arts Society International Convention is ‘largest percussion festival in the world’

icon of a calendarNovember 18, 2020

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OU students, faculty and alumni participate in virtual PASIC
Mark Stone
Mark Stone, associate professor of world music and percussion.

Oakland University percussion students, faculty, and alumni participated in the annual Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC), which took place Nov. 13-14.

“PASIC this year was amazing as always, with many great lectures ranging from music business to niche performing arts, including performers we wouldn’t usually be able to see,” said Dan Shiller, treasurer of OU’s percussion student organization. “This was an amazing opportunity for students as it shows what is currently going on in our field, from the pioneers themselves.”

Due to the pandemic, this year’s convention went virtual for the first time.

“Because it was virtual, many amazing groups and individuals who would not have been able to participate otherwise were in attendance,” said David Smit, president of OU’s percussion student organization. “It was also amazing to see my wonderful professors, Chinelo Amen-Ra and Mark Stone, presenting with many other esteemed speakers.”

Amen-Ra and Stone presented a panel entitled “Skin on Skin: A Roundtable Discussion,” which explored the impact of hand drumming traditions and how the drum can be used as an instrument of peace to overcome cultural differences, and fuel the noble aspiration of communal unity.

Chinelo Amen-Ra
Chinelo Amen-Ra

“With all that has happened in our country and our world in 2020, this year's PASIC convention was a much-needed gathering of people from all walks of life who aim to unite our world through percussion,” Amen-Ra said. “I was honored to be a featured panelist, joining an esteemed group of diverse percussionists whose works have made a global impact. Our backgrounds and life journeys with music were all very different, but we were brought together through African-based hand drumming traditions.

“This is the true spirit of the drum, a spirit that unifies our world and draws emphasis to the oneness of humanity,” he added. “In talking with some of our Oakland University percussion students, their experience was as good if not better than mine, and I know they will be impacted in this year and any year they attend this essential convention. I personally can't wait until PASIC 2021.”

Stone is also chair of the PAS World Percussion Committee and helped organize presentations from Japan, South Africa, Ghana, Guinea, India, and Cuba for this year’s convention.

In addition, OU percussion alumnus Ari Hajek helped to organize a special tribute honoring legendary percussionist Alan Abel (Philadelphia Orchestra and Temple University), who died this past spring after contracting COVID-19.

Hajek restored and edited video footage from Abel’s distinguished career. He also condensed and edited a Zoom call in which Abel’s wife and children shared their memories of him.

“It was an honor to help out,” Hajek said. “Losing Mr. Abel was like losing a grandfather, and it’s safe to say that most of his students felt the same way. He loved technology, so I’m pretty sure if he heard about what I did, he’d crack a smile, and in his airy voice, say, ‘wow … that’s cool!’ He was a good person; one of the best, in fact.”

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