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Marching to the beat of a different drum

With touring and other live shows on hold, Adam Bowman has been finding other ways to keep busy. [Damon Maclean]

Elmira-born percussionist Adam Bowman is many things – a teacher, session musician and a creative mind, included – but complacent is not on that list. Despite being forced by the pandemic to cancel a global tour and change the way he goes about practicing his craft, Bowman continues to make the most of the situation.

If all went according to plan, Bowman would be on the road with Nights of Grief & Mystery, a project that features Guelph songwriter Gregory Hoskins and a storyteller by the name of Steven Jenkinson performing along with a band.

“That particular tour was a tour that was going to take us all over the world this year, all the way from Turkey to Switzerland, Vancouver and Los Angeles, and all points in between… and then the world had other plans,” said Bowman  of the unexpected pandemic.

On tour, the band would provide the soundtrack to the vocals of the night. “The show was a [mix] of Gregory’s songs as well as the band providing underscoring for Stephen’s stories – he shares his ideas on culture and elders and particularly around our thoughts as a culture on death and dying,” explained Bowman.

Bowman has also been working with Elise LeGrow, a Toronto-based pop musician. He accompanied LeGrow just the other week to Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall to record a video shoot, an experience Bowman found to be bittersweet.

“It was really interesting… but heartbreaking at the same time,” he said of the feeling of being on such a massive stage with no audience to witness the performance, along with the sense of uncertainty as to when people would once again be able to fill the seats.

The experience caused Bowman more than a little worry. Aware of the music scene being the first industry to shut down and likely the last one to fully open, Bowman says the downtime has an impact on more than just the performers.

“The livelihoods and careers of everybody else involved in a place like that, all the sound technicians and lighting technicians and people who work in the backstage, people who work in the front offices, makeup artists, and just on and on. The list of people who work in the entertainment industry that are impacted is lengthy. And it’s not just people who have gigs. It’s people who have careers, that are… longstanding, well established, very professional careers that have been …put on hold,” he said.

During the lockdown, Bowman has worked with Nights of Grief & Mystery as well as Guelph’s Eccodek to create new material. Similar to his performance at Roy Thomspon Hall, the surplus of time to record and create is also bittersweet due to the fact it remains uncertain if or when the material will ever be played live.

For many performers, a transition to virtual shows has become second nature. For Bowman, as a solo drummer, the option exists to live-stream and create more social media style content, but that isn’t particularly adaptable.

“It’s kind of like comparing film and live theatre – those are two completely different things. And everybody knows that you just can’t take a movie and put it on a stage or vice versa. Take a musical and transfer to film, there’s been lots of examples where that transfer doesn’t hold up very well.”

With the world slowly starting up again, Bowman is happy to be returning to in-person drum teaching in Elmira. Over the past 10 years Bowman’s busy schedule has forced him to turn down people looking for lessons, but the extra time on his hands now allows him to reopen his studio this fall. Those interested in his lessons can contact him by email at adam@adambowman.com.

The reopening of his studio is in addition to the teachings he does at the University of Guelph in the city he currently resides with his wife and two-year-old daughter. However, those teachings will be in the digital world, allowing students to attend a one-on-one class from realistically anywhere in the world.

Given all the obstacles artists and performers now face, Bowman says it’s important for people to recognize what these people provide to our society.

“I’ve noticed that while people have been locked down and stuck in their homes isolated from their friends and family, the first thing that they often go to is the arts. Being quarantined without access to your Netflix, Spotify, movies, novels, video games or television shows or on and on and on – all the things that have artists behind them, propping up the everyday art that people encounter and depend on for their own inspiration, peace of mind, sanity, company – I think that’s the thing that’s really having a light shone on it right now. And all those people that we’re talking about are really struggling, and seemingly will be so for some time,” said Bowman.

More information can be found at his website.

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