Inspired by conversations with fellow artists about how powerful visuals of other performers are, I decided that womxn and minorities did not have the representation our diverse community has. A performer can walk into any practice room and find at least one poster of a white, usually male, artist. That image is not representative of the community that we are all a part of. In response to this I, as President of WCU's Percussive Arts Association, have been communicating with percussion companies and brands to collect images of performers. These images are to be printed on posters and distributed throughout WCU’s, as well as local institution’s, practice rooms; in the hopes of a womxn or minority seeing someone like them, who is successful, and be inspired to create their own path.
Above are some of the posters that have been printed using artists from various percussion companies. I believe that this is only the first step to changing people's perception of the percussion community. The next step is taking more posters to schools in the surrounding area and hanging them where young musicians can see the diversity of the industry they love. One day we will see a changed cultural mindset where everyone believes that they can be successful because they saw someone like them be successful.
Thank you to Pearl, Adams, Zildjian, IP, Black Swamp, Vic Firth, Yamaha, Majestic, Marimba One, and Hit Like A Girl for providing images of their artists and composers! This wouldn't have been possible without your help.
The Story behind it
Let's go back to the beginning where this idea started.
During my Sophomore year at WCU the percussion studio decided to clean out the practice rooms and take down any posters that were dated or looking worse for wear. This was inspired by the visit of an artist that we had a poster up of. This artist was not the image and did not represent the ideas that we believed in, so we tore their poster down first. Ultimately we ended up taking down every poster that was displayed. This included the poster of Sheila E seen above. When the guys in the studio tore this down, they did not understand why I was upset; they did not understand the visual effect this poster had on me. I took both halves of the poster out of the trash and took it back to my dorm to put back together.
Fast forward a couple of years and I still have this poster displayed in my dorm room and never plan on taking it down. What I know now that I did not know then is why I rescued that poster. It hit me over quarantine that that poster of Sheila E was the only poster of a womxn in the percussion field that I had ever seen. That that poster was the only visual representation of someone like me. Seeing her image displayed on the walls of a practice room was changing the way that I viewed myself; it was empowering me to believe that I too could be a successful, and recognizable, womxn in the music industry.
Sometime during SoSI 2020 I was in a discussion about our experiences in the field. Someone brought up the idea that womxn are viewed differently than men in the percussion community. This lead to a great conversation about how we view people and success. I chimmed in to talk about Sheila E and how seeing someone like yourself as successful helps you change your mindset and see yourself as being able to be successful. For example, it is easy for male percussionists to see groups like So, Third Coast, Sandbox, etc and believe that they can be successful because they see people who are similar to them doing it. That is not the case with womxn. It takes a lot of research and effort to find womxn in the percussion field.
That was it. I could not ignore this thing any longer. I had to do something. So I came back to WCU and started right in front of me. I contacted percussion groups, companies, and artists to get photos that could be printed as posters. Then I hung them. This became so much more than a gender discussion and I am beyond grateful for that! It opened my eyes to discussions that I was not aware I was missing.
The next step is to hang them in local schools (and beyond) so that underrepresented percussionists can see people like them who are successful and change their mindset about themselves early on,
The artists on our walls
Tim Adams Jauvan Gillium Sheila E Nir Z Josh Jones She-e Wu Pete Escovedo Colleen Berstein jason Treuting Ji Hue Jung Pius Cheung Drew Tucker