Thank you for visiting my blog. This is the first post in what I hope will become a meaningful and free-flowing exchange of ideas on topics related to music, music education, percussion traditions, the right of every person to express themselves openly through the arts, and much more.
The idea to start this blog came to me from Dr. Lisa Rogers at Texas Tech University after I contacted her for help with the following project.
In the middle of 2009, I was approached by my good friend and fellow musician Yamaha Saxophone artist Greg Thompkins to work with him and the Baltimore Jazz Education Project (BJEP). The goal of the BJEP is to fund jazz education to underprivileged youth through the funding of individual musical instruction in selected Baltimore City Public Schools. Greg had already been teaching the saxophone to students at Winston Middle School and saw an avenue to involve more students by having me start a percussion ensemble program.
This opportunity was a dream come true for me. Over the past five years, I’d already developed a system of group drumming that had proven very popular among adult students at CCBC (Community College of Baltimore County), special needs students at Maiden Choice School, and various other populations (veterans, seniors, and more.) But, here was my chance to design a program from scratch for talented young people who had no current opportunities in music education. The questions going through my mind ranged from the broadest of issues like “What avenues of percussion should we explore?” and “How will I integrate the percussion program with the other instruments” to more specific concerns “How many drums should I buy?” and “What types or sizes” and “Where should I get them?”
To start the process, I pulled from many sources to look at successful percussion programs around the country, and asked for advice from my former and current teachers, friends, and colleagues. In one discussion with Dr. Rogers, she mentioned that the experience I have putting this program together may be helpful to other teachers interested in doing similar work. And that I should put a blog together detailing both my successes and failures over the course of the first year.
So, I’ve arrived at the point where the Winston Middle School Drummers have been participating and performing in percussion class for almost an entire school year. We’ve performed everything from traditional African drumming and singing pieces, to original dance/drumset pieces celebrating everyone from Ray Charles to Mary J. Blige.
In my next post I will begin to detail the planning, drum purchasing, and implementation of the BJEP Percussion Program and Winston Middle School.
I hope this blog will inform and inspire you to drum, dance, organize, and help others express themselves musically. I appreciate feedback, comments, and ideas that have worked for you in your musical endeavors.
Future topics will also focus on: the traditional children’s samba program that I run every summer for the Independence Day Parades, the drum circle course that I now teach at Sheppard Pratt and the Maryland Library for the Blind through the support of the Lagniappe Project, interviews and video lessons concerning all manner of percussion from myself and many of my wonderful friends/contemporaries/mentors, detailed writings on the study of instrument (marimba/kalimba) building which I’ve recently undertaken, and much more.
Again, welcome and enjoy!