I recently connected with Allie Chase, the owner and founder of Prove Our Purpose. In the very brief time that I’ve gotten to know Allie (via the internet albeit), I think she might be one of the most positive people I know. Allie started a company to help encourage others to never give up on their goals, and she does this through her site and social media.
People like Allie remind me that one of my favorite things about the marching percussion world is the positivity and support you see between individuals and between groups.
What is your background and how long have you been involved with the percussion community?
I have been involved with percussion my whole life. At 5 years old, I had one of those old school mini drum machines that you just hit with sticks and that’s when I was hooked. I played percussion in middle and high school. I did not go on to march drum corps simply because I was too focused on my studies in college. At this point, I wish I had just gone for it. I have been a percussion caption head for 8 years and have assisted multiple different groups.
What is the story behind Prove Our Purpose?
Prove Our Purpose was born because of a passion of mine to inspire and motivate musicians to believe in themselves no matter how hard the journey. I have always loved helping people succeed and helping them to believe in their potential. Making goals and sticking to the hard work it takes to reach those goals is a huge part of what I hope to help people to do through this company.
I’ve always been interested in history. It was one of my favorite subjects in school. I have a long commute and drive all over Indianapolis as part of my day job and I pass the time by listening to podcasts. There are a number of great history podcasts out there that really help make your commute feel like it was worthwhile, and that you learned something as opposed to wasting away in traffic for an hour each way.
I’ve been particularly interested in learning more about WGI history recently. This started by analyzing all of the different groups that have won PIW Finals and PSW Finals over the years. As I dove into the history of PIW Finals, I came across a group that I had never heard of before. Not only did I not recognize their name, but they were PIW champions and I had still never heard of them. My first time going to WGI Finals was back in 2003 as an 8th grader going to watch my older brother perform. I joined the next year when I was a freshman in high school and have been involved in the activity ever since. Over all of those years and all of this time, I had never heard of Atlanta Rhythm Machine.
Atlanta Rhythm Machine
1995 Atlanta Rhythm Machine – Photo Credit: WGI.org
So who were these guys? Where did they come from? Where did they go?
If you look at the list of PIW Finalists from the early years, Atlanta Rythm Machine only shows up in 1995 and 1996. Independent groups were introduced in the 1994 season, and in just the second year of PIW, Atlanta Rhythm Machine shows up, wins the whole thing, makes finals again the following year, and seemingly disappears and never competes again.
That’s a pretty cool story already, right?
WGI Independent Finals – 1995
So Atlanta Rhythm Machine wins Finals in 1995, their first year competing. Granted, this was only the second year of independent percussion finals, but winning in your first year of competing is impressive regardless!
I did some Google searches for Atlanta Rhythm Machine and I uncovered the following story from an old forum from 1998 on the interwebs. I normally wouldn’t quote such a long excerpt, but if true, this story is incredible. Continue reading
I recently caught up with Eric Carraway, who is the founder of a great new tool called percuss.io. I wish something like this existed back in my playing days. I’ll let Eric explain how percuss.io works below in the interview, but essentially it is a tool that allows you to watch an excerpt being played while simultaneously seeing the sheet music go along with it. This is seriously one of the coolest things out there to help a student learn something new. I’m really excited to see more from Eric and watch percuss.io grow.
Hey Eric, thanks for sharing your story with The Tap Off.
Thanks for the opportunity, Spencer! I saw your previous interview with Eric Carr and figured I’d reach out. Who’s next in the alphabetical order? 😉
What is your background and how long have you been drumming?
It’s a pretty typical background for someone in the band world: I was really involved in high school, I did a few years of DCI and WGI, and I majored in music.
The plot twist is that a decade into my career as a high school band director, I decided to become a software developer. I’ve been coding professionally since 2014.
So you made a career change?
Yeah, but I like to think of it as an industry change. It’s less scary when framed in those terms.
A lot of people considering a career change think they’ll be abandoning their current skill set. Many things transfer from a background in music.
Was it hard learning to code?
It was hard in that it was time-consuming. My drum corps experience taught me that with consistent effort over time, anything can be learned.
I’m a foolish idealist in that I think talent is a myth. This mindset makes it easier to deal with “beginner struggles” – whether that be in learning to play an instrument, learning to code, or learning to be an entrepreneur.
I’ve been doing passion projects at the intersection of percussion and tech since forever. I bought the domain name in 2014.
“.io” is popular with tech companies and startups because it’s a reference to “input/output.”
The original idea was to build a portfolio site to share my side projects and experiments in percussion education software. After getting feedback from students, I pivoted towards building a platform and community for learning drumline licks.
What are the main features of the platform?
percuss.io is a web-based percussion education platform featuring videos synchronized with music notation. On any web-enabled device, students can learn by
1) Starting anywhere by clicking on a barline
2) Looping musical chunks
3) Slowing the video down to a practice tempo without changing pitch
How long have you been working on creating the site? Did you do the coding and development yourself?
I built the front end; our interactive player is powered by Soundslice. I first reached out to Adrian Holovaty, the developer creating Soundslice, in 2014. Soon after that, percuss.io became a licensed partner of Soundslice technology. I spent a couple of years on demos and prototypes before officially launching percuss.io in February 2017.
This seems like a great tool for DCI or WGI groups to engage with their fans and will allow people to easily learn some of their licks and features. Have you partnered with any groups to get their content on the site for people to learn?
Details about the educational partnership are in this press release.
If you’re auditioning for one of our DCI or WGI partners, you’ll soon be able to purchase interactive audition packets. Instead of just a PDF packet, notation for exercises and show excerpts will be synchronized with video.
Can anybody be a contributor? How would I go about being a contributor and adding my own videos and sheet music to the site?
Yes! We love doing collabs through Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. We’re open to all kinds of percussion material. All you have to do is reach out!
The #BYOS phenomenon of drummers writing their own licks and sharing videos on social media – percuss.io wants to bring our own style by syncing these vids with notation.
How long would it take for someone to contribute their own footage and music to the site? Is that a complicated process?
We’re fast. It was a challenge at first, but we get better with every new upload to the platform. People are often surprised to learn that all we need is a video link and a notation file.
George Torres III is the Community & Content Manager for percuss.io – he helps contributors get their video and notation in the proper format. George has an expert level understanding of how percussion MusicXML is handled differently by various software programs; he can answer any questions contributors may have.
If you have a vid that you’d like to see on percuss.io, reach out to us on social media!
Could you see this tool being adapted for wind instruments or something other than percussion in the future?
To start, the focus of percuss.io is percussion and our unique community. We’re planning to expand into wind and colorguard content soon.
What are some upcoming capabilities or updates to the site that we can expect to see in the future?
The percuss.io platform utilizes hashtags, search function, and user accounts. This feature set will remain lightweight and minimal so that we can focus our energy on building the community and uploading lots of new content.
The Soundslice embedded player is updated frequently with new improvements. A recent update allows our users to select which scrolling algorithm they prefer. Here’s a side-by-side comparison featuring the quad line from Impact Percussion.
What’s the most frequently asked question you get about percuss.io?
How do you pronounce percuss.io?
In all seriousness, it’s, “Where can I get this app?” There’s a false assumption that this is something to download from one of the app stores.
We’ve had a hard time conveying that this is a website, platform, and community. You can access percuss.io on any device with a web browser. Simply open Chrome or Safari and type in “percuss.io”!
What’s the cost?
Since our focus in on education, we’re hoping to keep it free for students and independent content contributors from the community.
Eventually, a small percentage of content from percussion music publishers may cost money. Licensing and copyright are the biggest challenges to overcome here.
Anything else you want to share or promote?
percuss.io is based in San Antonio, Texas. We love that this city is so meaningful to members of the marching band and drum corps activity.
San Antonio is building an ecosystem for tech entrepreneurs, and the Geekdom community is at the center of this effort. I recently participated in Geekdom’s “Startup Weekend” competition. It felt like my first November drum corps camp with all of the awkwardness of putting myself out there and auditioning in front of experts.
percuss.io advanced to the finals round and received an honorable mention for the product pitch!
How can people interested in percuss.io get in touch?
Social media is best. We like interacting with our community out in the open because it helps other people who might have similar questions or ideas.
But if email is more your thing, we’re hip to that, too. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org – We’re friendly! 😉
We’re right in the middle of contest season and WGI Finals in Dayton are only about 7 weeks away. As we get closer to the 25th Finals for PSW, let’s take a look back at the previous 24 seasons.
Make sure to check out our post about PIW finals here.
24 Years, 15 Champions
As I was looking back at the data from previous PSW Championships, the thing that stuck out the most to me was how many different schools have ended the season as WGI Champs, and how many schools have come and gone from prominence over the years. Take a look below at all of the different schools that have ended as WGI Champs for PSW. There are 15 different schools that have won and only five schools that have won more than once.
Last week I saw a pie chart on Twitter that was getting shared quite a bit from @DCIJunkie. I’ve followed DCI for more than a decade now, but I had never really spent much time thinking about which groups had won DCI Finals the most. I was blown away by the fact that the Blue Devils have 17 championships, and I had no idea that the Cadets were in second place with 10 championships. With 44 years of history, there’s obviously quite a bit that happened before I ever knew about DCI.
This got me to thinking about what the equivalent charts and data for WGI PIW would look like. I’ve been following that activity much more closely for over a decade as well, but for me personally, I really didn’t know the history of what had happened prior to about 2003-ish. So I started doing a little research and set off on an Excel spreadsheet adventure, followed by nerding out over some charts and graphs for the past few days.
What I Learned
Independent groups were added in 1994, which was the 2nd year of WGI Percussion Finals. There were only four groups for Independent in that first year: Blue Knights (1st), Wheaters (2nd), Mandarins (3rd), and the mighty University of Toledo (4th). Since then, the number of Independent groups has grown quite a bit obviously. According to WGI’s website, there are currently 45 active groups in PIW alone. Over the past 22 years though, one group has ended on top more often that anyone else…
Today’s post is an interview with Eric Carr, the man behind the Drum Battle YouTube videos that many of you in the marching percussion world have probably seen. Leading up to the election back in November, I remember being at a drumline rehearsal and one of the other staff members showing us a video of a Trump vs Hillary drumline battle. We all thought it was hilarious seeing Trump playing a quad solo and some bass split parts, but the longer I watched it, the more I realized how much time it must have taken to film the whole thing! As you watch you can see that each part is being played by one person, and all of the different parts are layered over each other.
Interview with Eric Carr
What is your background and how long have you been drumming?
I have been playing percussion for 17 years, starting in elementary school band. I went on to major in music performance at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ and later got my masters at the University of Delaware. I marched 4 years of drum corps with Carolina Crown 2010, Jersey Surf 08-09, and Bushwackers 2007. I also marched 4 years of WGI with United Percussion 08-11.
Yesterday on Facebook, Josh Torres, Director of Percussion at Center Grove High School, posted a video tour of their newly renovated and expanded percussion facilities. Center Grove is my alma mater and I moved back home to that part of town almost a year ago. I was at Center Grove a few different times in the fall for marching band contests and have seen the construction progress over the past year or so.
“Here is a tour of our new percussion room! Thanks so much to the Center Grove Board of Trustees and Administration for making the renovation a reality!
Also, thanks to decades worth of students, alumni, and teachers that built the PROGRAM that made this room a reality!”
The 2016-2017 NFL season comes to an end tonight in Houston for Super Bowl 51. A couple days after I posted about NFL teams with drumlines having better records than teams without drumlines, Rolling Stone released a pretty cool piece on the Falcons Drumline. The Falcons obviously had a great year and have made it to the Super Bowl. The Patriots, as usual, had another great year and are back in the Super Bowl for the 400th time. As a Colts fan, it’s going to be hard for me to write many nice things about the Patriots, but you can’t argue with results.
In my post, I argue that teams with a drumline do better statistically than teams without. When you look at wins and losses, points scored, etc. the argument only works if you remove the outliers. The outliers, in this case, are the teams at both ends of the spectrum – very few wins with a drumline (Browns – 1-15) and many wins without a drumline (Patriots 14-2).
So what’s it going to be? A great team with a great drumline? Or a great team without a drumline? We’ll have to wait and see who wins tonight. It’s too bad the Falcons Drumline does not get to travel with the team to Houston.
In the meantime, we can watch this awesome video of the Falcons players and Patriots players doing their own drum battle.
One of my favorite things about Indoor Percussion is how fast paced things can be. As a percussionist, rehearsals seem to go by faster when you’re involved in just about every rep and don’t have to wait on the winds or color guard. With a smaller stage to perform on the drill can feel like you’re flying around the tarp. The indoor season isn’t much shorter than the marching band season, but it always seems to go by much faster to me.
We’re still early in the 2017 Indoor Percussion season, but contests all over the country are up and running this weekend. I was originally thinking it seemed a bit early to do this, but when you look at a calendar, I think now is an appropriate time to start a countdown to Dayton. There are only 11 weeks between now and April 22nd. With every group still learning music, drill and adding on to their show, these 11 weeks are going to go by quickly. For those of you graduating or aging out, enjoy them while they last!
Here’s a breakdown of what’s going on around the country this weekend. It’s impossible to follow every group performing throughout the season, but I will try to keep tabs on the more notable PSW and PIW group as the season progresses. Check back here each week for scores and recaps.
In alphabetical order by circuit:
FFCC (Florida Federation of Colorguards Circuit) starts their Indoor Percussion season this weekend at Oviedo HS just outside of Orlando. This is a pretty big lineup and features Infinity Percussion going on last to wrap things up. Schedule and details are here.
GIPA (Georgia Indoor Percussion Association) has their first show at North Gwinnett HS. It’s interesting to me that the lineup of this show has prelims and a finals round. That seems unusual to me for the first show of the year, but maybe every GIPA operates under this format. You can see PSW finalist Milton HS and PIW finalist Atlanta Quest there this weekend.
IPA (Indiana Percussion Association) – no shows this weekend due to the Indiana Solo & Ensemble competitions. IPA will get started next weekend on February 11th with two different shows. This will be the first time we get to see Indiana’s only PIW group, Legacy, as well as PSW groups like Goshen HS and Center Grove HS.
Side note – check out IPA’s new website. It looks great and it sounds like the guys on the IPA board put a ton of time into improving it.