Drumroll, please. More than 5,000 percussionists will convene in Indianapolis November 9–12 for the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. The largest drumming convention in the world, PASIC transforms the convention center into an exhibition hall, concert venue, and academic conference all at once. With more than 80 sessions, the event includes everything from drum circles to symphonic seminars to rock gods. “It’s a very big deal,” says Percussive Arts Society Executive Director Joshua Simonds.
A big deal means big names. PASIC always attracts artists with international acclaim, including past drummers for Prince, Beyonce, Elton John, and Lady Gaga. The Pedrito Martinez Group kicks off the convention with a concert Wednesday and clinic Thursday, allowing attendees to directly learn from a drummer who has worked with Bruce Springsteen and James Taylor. Attendees can take master classes with Death Cab for Cutie drummer Jason McGerr and other industry icons. The closing concert group, Ghost-Note, alone boasts multiple Grammy-winning percussionists who have represented household names like Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, and Janet Jackson.
We’ve all got the beat. Don’t let the impressive artist lineup intimidate you. You don’t need to be a pro to attend PASIC. You don’t even need to play percussion at all. Hobbyists and professionals alike can explore the exhibit hall for the latest gear, ask questions at master classes, enjoy live music, or partake in a drum circle. “The thing about drumming is that it’s the most accessible instrument in the world,” Simonds says. “We all inherently have some rhythm. It starts with our heartbeat.”
Be prepared for some noise. After all, few other conventions offer complementary earplugs around the venue and conduct free hearing tests on Friday. You may hear more chatter than at a typical convention, too. Returning percussionists refer to PASIC as a family reunion, and that camaraderie extends beyond the official hours of the convention. Simonds says PASIC is legendary for its after-hours hangouts, where artists and attendees revel in Indy’s nightlife together.
Why Indianapolis? Just as the city strategically pursued the title of amateur sports capital of the world, it campaigned PAS, Drum Corps International, and Bands of America to relocate here in the early 2000s, creating a kind of percussion capital. As a result, thousands of drummers flock to Indianapolis to attend PASIC, BOA Championships, DCI World Championships, and the world’s only interactive percussion museum, Rhythm! Discovery Center. “If we can bring world-class artists to Indianapolis and show them it’s a great place for live music,” Simonds says, “that is only going to help our city.”