For Northridge alumnus Tristan Swihart, music is “special.”
“Music is one of those rare things that can really bring people from all kinds of backgrounds together,” Swihart said. “Ultimately, I love performing music that I like to listen to, and to be able to share it with others is really special.”
His musical partner, Micah Detweiler, feels the same way.
“I’m not sure if going into percussion was really an option,” said Detweiler, a Goshen College graduate and former teacher at Northridge Middle and High Schools. “I was quite obsessed from a young age. I had toy drums that I loved and banged on my parents’ pots and pans. Music in general interested me, but always drums and percussion more than anything”.
Although they both have roots in Elkhart County, Swihart and Detweiler now split their time between Goshen and Madison, Wisconsin, as the two founding members of pax duo, a percussion project that, in their words, “seeks to break down the prejudices of contemporary percussion through collaboration. and new creation.”
“We look forward to continuing to share our projects through live performances and videos,” added Swihart.
The two first met in 2012, when Detweiler began working with the Northridge Raider Marching Band, where Swihart was studying. Formerly a teacher and student, the two are now musical colleagues who are working on several new musical projects and recently completed a tour of Indiana and Wisconsin.
“After studying with Micah for five years, I went on to study with Michael Burritt at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where I received my Bachelor of Music degree in percussion performance, as well as a certificate in Artistic Leadership at the spring 2021,” Swihart said. “I currently live in Madison, Wisconsin, where I am a full-time freelance musician.”
Detweiler has also turned her lifelong passion into a career, both in teaching and acting.
“I balance most of my time between giving private lessons, playing concerts, and teaching as an adjunct for both Goshen College and Indiana University South Bend,” he said.
Until now, the pax duo has featured entirely in the Midwest, but Swihart hopes that will change.
“Performing to national and even global audiences is something we are very interested in, but ultimately we will continue to measure our success by the projects we create and the relationships we create with our collaborative artists along the way,” he said.
Swihart also discussed how he and Detweiler, in addition to the performance aspects, also work on the logistics aspects.
“I also spend a considerable amount of time doing administrative work for pax duo,” he said. “Both Micah and I split the responsibilities of running our ensemble. Some of my jobs include booking our tours, organizing drum kit logistics, and liaising with our collaborators.
“We work closely on grants and artistic decisions (like repertoire and figuring out who we want to collaborate with) and often work on four or five different projects at once. Organization and regular management meetings are key when it comes to getting everything done.”
For those considering a career in music, they both offer some advice.
“Careers in music can be complicated,” Swihart said. “Each musician’s career is unique to their own art methods and how they make money from it. Ultimately, you have to really believe in what you’re doing and love the process of doing it.”
Speaking as a former music teacher, Detweiler describes music as a very rewarding career path, but not necessarily an easy one.
“First of all, listen to a lot of music, to your teachers, to others who have done it before, to whatever knowledge you can absorb,” he said. “My other big piece of advice is to be flexible in what your understanding of a career in music may look like. I know hundreds of musicians and only a few are full time artists. Most are balancing several different elements to create a cohesive race.”
Detwiler offers some final thoughts.
“Music is great in the way that it can take you places you don’t expect,” he said.