Reflections on Steve's Summer Tour
Updated: Oct 2
For those of you who may not know me, my name is Steven Perry and I am an instructor for Philly Music Factory here at Urban Movement Arts. This fall I will be entering my third school year with UMA and I could not be more excited! I love working here and couldn't ask for a better environment to teach in. The students and staff here are second to none!
On top of teaching here and other places, I am very lucky to perform on a regular basis in the Philly Region. Currently I do a lot of sideman work with artists in the Jazz scene and am in an Up and Coming fusion band named “Atomic Fizz”; I also run my own project 'Dual Identity'. This summer I had the opportunity to embark on a Mini Tour with my project during the 2nd and 3rd week of June. I really learned a lot on this trip, and walked away with many things to think about. Vince and Eric have asked me to talk a little about this experience, and to be honest i've never done a blog type entry before so forgive me if this doesn't follow your normal format; but here it goes.
First i'll start with a broad overview of what I did. This trip was very much tour centric, but was actually inspired from a Bachelor Party for a friend from home (Indiana) . Around March my friend decided to have his Bachelor Party in Put-In-Bay, Ohio (one of our childhood favs) on June 16-18. Me being the crazy person (and somewhat of a workaholic) I am, decided that if I wanted to go on this trip; I would have to try and set up a Tour out of it. What I also realized, was that a drum camp I used to work in Michigan would also be going on the week after, and if I could work that, it would roughly pay for the trip. I decided to start reaching out to venues as fast as I could and scrambled to set up some shows around all this, which led me to my first few learning points of the trip.
Don't try to book a tour less than 6 months out. - The reason for this being that most Venues are starting to book up to 6 months in advance due to higher artist demand.
Get used to hearing “NO” or not even getting a response. - As an artist who tries to book their stuff pretty regularly, I'm used to hearing no. But a lot of the places I reached out to sent an automatic response and never got back, or tried to make something work, but after a few emails decided to stop responding.
Be Persistant and Resilient - Even though many venues didn't get back to me or didn't work out, I kept going and was able to set up 2 shows. And with less than 6 months time, that's honestly a huge accomplishment. Also just because someone doesn't get back, it doesn't mean they have anything against you; they're probably just busy!
Now to the fun part. The itinerary....Before I get into details I will just list the dates and what I did each day to show you a rough idea of my schedule. To add to all the craziness, my friend Tyler, who is a hobby biker, biked from Cleveland to Philly and decided to ride back to the midwest with me (He lives in Detroit and also has an apartment in Kalamazoo, you'll see why this is important in a bit)
June 12: Last Full day in Philly
Teach at Philly Music Factory
Play a gig at Sidecar from 830-11pm
Also this is Tyler's birthday so we were celebrating with lunch before teaching and a party after the gig
June 13: Travel Day
Pack and get ready in the morning. We decide to leave around 2 pm. And stop for a cheesesteak on the way out (Delessandros---which side note was not worth the stop)
After traffic and eating we don't get out of Philly til 4 pm ish, taking the non toll route (about 10 hours)
Finally we arrive in Metro Detroit at 3 am
June 14: GIG #1 (Montague, Michigan 7pm)
Montague is Two and a Half Hours from where I'm staying in Detroit, so I leave around 130pm to get there a bit early. I'm meeting the rest of the band there (hired out locally)
Play the gig from 7-9pm ish and hang for a bit after with the band
Drive to my buddy Tyler's apartment in Kalamazoo for the night because it's only and hour and a half away from Montague. I get in around 1 am
June 15: Day off
I wake up late am again and start my drive back to Detroit area. This is a two hour drive and two hours closer to Put-In-Bay.
I get in to Detroit to hang and chill for the day and catch up with friends, very low key.
June 16: Head to Put-In-Bay for Bachelor Party Day 1
Wake up early and catch up on work and emails from back home and head out around 1230.
I get into Put-In-Bay area around 330 and take the Ferry over to the island (if you've never been...imagine an island in Ohio that somehow feels like a Beach town from South Jersey and Florida combined)
I'm staying at one of my childhood friends family cabin. Camping in the backyard. This was my first time pitching a tent by myself believe it or not!
June 17: Bachelor Party Day 2
This is the first day I haven't had to drive since the start of the trip. And that was very nice...
We play a fun round of golf this day. The course was terrible, but a much needed break from reality. I haven't been golfing in years.
Chill again at night, playing yard games and hanging.
June 18: Bachelor Party Wrap Up/Travel Back to Detroit
Wake up early for cleanup. I didn't mention yet that there were like 15 guys at this party, so cleanup took a while to say the least.
Brunch and some final hang moments and we all head on our way. I leave early afternoon.
I get back to Detroit early evening and head out for a short bike ride. Biking in Michigan is SOOO much easier than Philly. LOL
June 19: Day off/Head back to Kalamazoo
Me and my buddy Tyler chill for most of the morning and early afternoon and then head to kalamazoo. I'll be working the drum camp this week ahead and Tyler has things to do in Kalamazoo as well so we will both be staying at his apartment.
We get into Kalamazoo in the evening and take it easy.
June 20: First Day of Drum Camp
This is my first day working the Keith Hall Summer Drum Intensive, a camp run by my old teacher. Keith has created in my opinion THE BEST Jazz drum camp in the world and working this thing is no joke. These kids are serious! Also the camp is 8 am to 8 pm so it is a heavy commitment.
The camp is structured so that 20 drummers are split into Four groups coached by two of Keith's former students. So in some ways it's like a huge college reunion for me because I get to see most of the drummers that I went to school with.
This night is the staff performance. All the coaches play for the students and take questions.
This is only the second day I haven't had to drive
June 21: Second Day of Drum Camp and Gig #2 (South Bend, Indiana)
I leave drum camp early this day to go play my second gig. South Bend is about an hour and a half away from Kalamazoo. This gig is super special because it's actually in my Hometown!
I arrive at the venue around 530 for load in and soundcheck. Gig is at 730 and we end around 9.
Head back to kalamazoo around 10pm and get back at 1130pm.
June 22: Third Day of Drum Camp
This day features a student jam session at night. All the drummers rotate in and out of the stage playing with a pro rhythm section. It's really a crazy sight to see.
The coaches all end up going out after to a Local Jazz Jam session run by Current college students. It was fun to see my old scene thriving yet again.
June 23: Fourth Day of Drum Camp
This is the first day of Student Performances. Each student has two tunes they arrange with a Pro Rhythm section and perform them for each other and their parents.
I also teach a masterclass on Harmony for drummers this day. Which turned out much better than expected
One funny snippet of this day was running into one of my old landlord at the concert! It was a blast from the past.
June 24: Final Day of Drum Camp
One more day of performances and wrap ups.
We get done around 7pm and I stay after for a Jam session with some friends. Much worth the wait.
We go out again after and have our final hang. It was honestly pretty hard to say goodbye. This camp and the hangs with my friends were extra special this year.
June 25: Day Off and Head Back to Detroit
Slept in late and had a chill breakfast, then headed back to detroit.
I forgot how intense of a commitment this camp was. This day off starts to drag on (in a good way)
Me and my buddies have a barbecue back in Detroit. A good way to wrap up the trip.
June 26: Head back to Philly
I get breakfast and leave by 1130. I get back to Philly by 11pm. A nice solo drive with time to unwind from an awesome trip!
As you can see, my itinerary was a little nuts. I think the reason it got that way is because I was so caught up in keeping myself busy with things that I didn't realize all the other things I was missing. For example, those few days I drove about 20 hours and didn't give myself time to do much else were exhausting. I also didn't book any hotels or anything before, I just couch surfed and thankfully I have some friends who are very welcoming, but without them I would have been sleeping in my car.
Overall it was an amazing trip, and I honestly can't believe it worked out; but next time I need to budget more time off. I also have a few more takeaways i'll end with. I hope to do this again, but definitely will be approaching it differently based on the things I learned.
Friends are your greatest resource. - Without my friends this trip wouldn't have been possible. Whether it be having a place to stay, or helping me drive across the country, or dropping what they were doing to hang; every little bit went a long way.
As a musician, the urge to turn every vacation into a workation is real. - It's so easy to get into the habit of trying to be productive all the time or continue the hustle, that I sometimes lose sight of what is important. Not every vacation needs to be a time where I need to work. I can hang with my friends and play music, without booking gigs.
Time away from the norm is important and inspiring. -Even though I was “working” in some facet most days of this trip it was still very good to get out. I was feeling burnt out in many ways from this past school year. On top of teaching private lessons and gigging, I took on working at Catholic Schools two days a week. While it has been an awesome experience, I think that I wasn't ready for the shift in my schedule that it caused. Towards the end I figured it out, but it was a year of feeling like I couldn't remember what day it was and always feeling like I was falling behind on things. This trip was the opposite of that. I felt very in control and like I was doing things for myself. It's hard to put into words exactly what about this trip was so great, but what I can say is I've never been more inspired than I have been the past month.
Don’t underestimate the amount of time you will be in the car. USE IT WISELY - Call that friend you haven't talked to in a while. Find a couple new albums you want to check out, or a podcast/audiobook. But also make sure you are paying attention to your surroundings. We live in a beautiful country!
Great Music and Great Musicians are everywhere. -I think as a musician it's really easy to fall into the mindset that all the best music and musicians are on the East Coast. While that has some merit, I think it's unfair to discount the amount of amazing musicians spread around this country. The gigs I played in Indiana and Michigan with local musicians were amazing. Music at the highest level and the guys playing were also just the best people. Touring is easy in that regard these days!
I'd like to thank Eric and Vince again for giving me the space to talk about this tour. Writing this reflection has helped me relive some of these moments last month, and it makes me realize just how amazing this trip was and how grateful I am to be in a career where these things are possible. Now...back to normal life!
Steven Perry is a Percussionist, Composer, Curator, and Educator from Osceola, Indiana and currently based in Philadelphia. Perry holds a Bachelors in Jazz Studies from Western Michigan University and a Masters in the same from Temple University. In his time at these universities he was given the opportunity to study with some of the most prestigious names in jazz including: Rodney Green, Byron Landham, Tony Miceli, David Friedman, and Billy Hart (among many others). At the age of 29, Perry is one of the top call sidemen in Philadelphia, and has performed with Philly Jazz greats such as: Lucas Brown, Norman David, John Swana, and Mike Boone as well as international touring artists Rex Richardson, Grant Stewart, and Onder Focan. Perry is an experienced educator, working with organizations such as The Kimmel Center, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Music Center of Southwest Michigan, and Philly Music Factory. One can find his project "Dual Identity" performing all over the Greater Philadelphia Area. Steven is also a Curator, specializing in putting music in unfamiliar territory. His most recent series "Noize Freak" in collaboration with Vince Johnson and Urban Movement Arts, aims to tear down the wall between Dancers and Musicians; having them improvising and creating art together in real time