The Maestra Hands-On Percussion Workshop: A Smash Hit!

As some of you know, this fall, Maestra is starting to offer professional development workshops in a variety of technical areas. Sunday night, Maestra kicked off the first of these offerings with a bang! The Hands-On Percussion workshop was led by Elena Bonomo (drummer for A Strange Loop and the national tour of Waitress), Rona Siddiqui (our most recent “Women Who Wow Us” spotlight and this year’s Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award winner), and Macy Schmidt (orchestrator, currently working as the music assistant on TINA: The Tina Turner Musical).

WHAT WE DID

In a cozy room at Michiko Studios filled with different types of drums and shakers, we alternated between getting instruction on how to play the instruments and having mini percussive jam sessions.

After that, we talked about how percussion is notated. Elena Bonomo talked us through the anatomy of a drum set and played examples of different types of grooves. We followed along on a notation sheet Macy had made for us on Finale.

Towards the end of the session, Rona offered up an opportunity: who would like to hop on the piano and try playing a groove with a drummer? (The groove, by the way, was “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles). In most settings, I know what would have happened at that moment: I would have wanted to try, but I would have been nervous about screwing up even though I have banged out the chords of “Love Song” 1,000 times, and while I hesitated, someone else probably would have raised their hand, and that would be that. But that’s what I love about Maestra. At Maestra, you’re supported, and you’re safe, and if you play a D chord instead of a D minor, there is no Greek chorus of gatekeepers shaking their heads being like “See, This is Why Girls Shouldn’t Plaaay.” So I volunteered first. And it was fun.

WHY WE NEED MORE THINGS LIKE THIS

There were a lot of things I loved about the percussion workshop, besides the obvious fact that it was incredibly informative and fantastically effective at giving us a first foray into learning percussion.

  • The room was incredibly supportive, as mentioned above. There was a different feeling in the room than most classes I’ve taken in the past. There wasn’t that “everyone’s here for themselves” feeling. Everyone was ready to reach out and help each other, rather than criticize or feel superior for “getting it when someone else didn’t.”
  • The room was noticeably generous of spirit. There were many different types of instruments–and I have to say, HUGE props to Elena, Rona, and Macy for lugging ALL THOSE INSTRUMENTS to Michiko, because there were a LOT of big drums and I’m not sure how they did it–but there weren’t enough of each type of instrument for everyone in the class to play each instrument type at the same time. But everyone in the class was so good about sharing and making sure the women around them got a chance to play, even if it meant cutting their own time short. My favorite example is the cajón, because there were only 3 cajóns and we learned that one last. So you could tell everyone was wondering how we were possibly going to get each of us to have a chance on the cajón. And it was also (in my opinion) the most fun instrument of the bunch. So at least in my brain, I made peace with the fact that I was probably not going to get to play the cajón, even though I had been pretty psyched to try it out. But then, as we were on the last mini jam session, I noticed something was happening. The women on the cajóns were switching off mid-session. They would play for a bit, then make eye contact with someone else in the circle to see if they wanted to play, then switch. And one of them did that for me. So I did get to play the cajón. And I was terrible at it. And now I want to buy one.
  • The room was smart, full of sharp questions, quick to pick things up, and ready for more.

I am constantly, constantly impressed by the women around me every time I come to Maestra meetings and events. These women are going to change the freaking world.

Author/Photographer: Jamie Maletz


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