Performance set for April 30 at SoulFood Books
Former Microsoft sound designer Sarah Allen Pella will be a guest drummer with the Berkeley, Calif.-based folk trio Rebecca Riots (www.rebeccariots.com) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 30 at SoulFood Books, 15748 Redmond Way; (425) 881-5309. The performance is free.
Her collaboration with Rebecca Riots began decades ago when she lived in the Bay Area, but they’ve maintained a long-distance friendship.
These days, Allen Pella teaches percussion at Seattle Drum School, plays and records with the “mindful pop” band supermodelumberjack (www.supermodelumberjack.com) and is the mom of Anthony, a first-grader at Wilder Elementary.
Allen Pella has lived in Redmond since 1995 and has become increasingly aware of how many artistic neighbors she has.
“Once you commit to a place, amazing people start coming out of the woodwork,” she commented.
And now that’s she a parent, she’s surprised that many school music programs — especially jazz band — require students to be there during “zero period,” which can be early as 6 or 6:30 a.m. That’s not feasible for a lot of kids, and it’s made her passionate about giving young musicians fun, healthy ways to get together, as well as helping adults “find their souls” by learning or re-learning an instrument.
“Right now, I’m teaching part-time,” she explained. “I had about 25 students three years ago and now have about eight to ten students for private lessons, plus in the summer, I work with kids’ bands and camps.”
In retrospect, she knows she was very lucky to have her parents’ wholehearted support for her musical interests. She majored in political science at Stanford University but brought her drum set with her and spent her college days gigging with the Stanford Jazz Band, a New Wave cover band, an R & B band and numerous jazz trios and quartets.
“In the ‘70s, a girl playing Big Band jazz was a rarity,” said Allen Pella, whose influences range from jazz immortal Buddy Rich to Danny Seraphine of Chicago, Stewart Copeland of The Police, Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters and Karen Carpenter.
“I You-Tubed Karen Carpenter the other day and watched some clips I had never seen before. Some people don’t know that she was such a good drummer,” she added.
Speaking of that, what about the “chick drummer” stereotype — the chauvinistic notion that girls or women should stick to more dainty instruments?
Allen Pella shook her head knowingly. “I’ve had hundreds of women come up to me say, ‘I always wanted to play drums and my parents made me play the flute.’ But now, over half the students at the Seattle Drum School of Music are girls. I’ve found that if you are looking for prejudice, you’ll find it. Fortunately, my parents neglected to mention that there were things I couldn’t do because I was a girl.”
She also felt blessed to grow up on Bainbridge Island where Alan Villiers created a jazz program that “in the day was on par with Garfield and Roosevelt (High Schools in Seattle). Good luck, encouragement and lots of practice helped me feel great about being identified as a drummer. And now that I’m a grown-up girl drummer … if they see you smiling and exhibiting some level of craft in the process, (they) assume you are where you’re meant to be.”
She said she loves working with Rebecca Riots because “they are highly conscious women and musicians, but they’re also hysterically funny — and like most people who know their music, I’m happy they decided to reunite and glad we now have a venue here in SoulFood Books that I could recommend.”
Allen Pella’s also doing an all-ages show with supermodelumberjack at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 3 at the L.A.B. at Seattle Drum School in North Seattle (www.seattledrumschool.com).