Terra State Community College student Sam Picciuto is passionate about percussion. Imagine the excitement he felt attending a three-day conference that involved nothing but percussive instruments.

Picciuto and his instructor, Mike Czeczele, recently returned from the 2016 Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis. He’s still pumped.

“I went around and tried every cymbal in the room, probably 200 to 300,” he said. “Every single one sounded amazing and unique.”

Cymbals aside, the convention was a great educational experience.

“It exceeded my expectations,” the 2013 St. Joseph Central Catholic graduate said. “I thought I would learn a lot of stuff and get information from gear companies, but the icing on the cake was going to clinics and learning more technical skills. I learned more than I thought I would.”

Picciuto became the first Terra State student to attend the conference.

“This is the gathering of the world’s greatest percussionists and educators, and the educational and networking experiences are second to none,” Czeczele said. “Sam attended many clinics, and watched a variety of performances. He also made his way through the exhibition area several times and met many of the merchants who sell percussion gear.”

The opportunity to participate in a professional conference is just one part of the music program at Terra State. And with a plethora of international musicians, it was a chance to experience the global community.

“The doors that open at these places for students are unimaginable,” Czeczele said. “You could meet somebody who could change your life.”

Picciuto also believes that an important part of a college education is attending events like this.

“I think if you’re going with a serious mindset, it’s essential to go to conferences to learn from professionals in the field,” he said. “What I was able to absorb during the conference was ridiculous. I learned about Latin grooves and new rudiments for drum set, and expressing yourself with your music. But you get out of it what you put in. You have to be willing to talk to people and network.”

Czeczele plans to nominate Picciuto to be a delegate to the Percussive Arts Society International, and his student is agreeable.

“I think it’s really beneficial,” Picciuto said of joining a professional organization.

In the meantime, Picciuto’s band, Castle No Kings, will benefit from the tips he learned at the convention and he’ll continue to be inspired by the words Swiss drummer JoJo Mayer shared in Indianapolis.

“Don’t align your music with the world, but change the world with your music,” Mayer said.

Jolene Chapman, Dean of the Business, Communications and the Arts division knows that Terra State faculty are highly educated, knowledgeable about their fields, and involved in local and national professional groups.

“There is a misconception that community colleges don’t offer the same academic rigor or student engagement that traditional four-year schools and programs do,” she said. “Terra State is proving this is not the case by challenging students to be involved, get outside of their routine and learn to see that they can achieve their goals.”

For instance, Czeczele is an adjunct instructor who holds bachelor and master degrees from Bowling Green State University and is a member of several professional organizations including the Professional Drum Teacher’s Guild, U.S. Association of Rudimental Drummers and Percussive Arts Society.

Czeczele is active as an artist and clinician with several major equipment companies including Vic Firth Drumsticks, Sabian Cymbals, Remo Drumheads, and Stone Custom Drums. He also endorses Duallist Bass Drum Pedals, Tru Tuner Drum tuners, and JR Publications.