Drumming Away Boredom

Written by Patricia Villers, Published by New Haven Register, October 14, 2002 .
Reprinted with permission.

ANSONIA — A new program that will teach drumming skills to Howard Tinney Community Center students will help them spend time after school in an upbeat way.

The Ansonia-based Valley Substance Abuse Action Council will launch its 12-week initiative, "Drums Not Drugs," at 3 p.m. Friday at the center at 6 Olson Drive , said council Director Pamela Mautte.

"Acquiring new skills of making and playing a musical instrument is a rewarding experience that provides youth with a great sense of accomplishment and self-esteem," Mautte said.

The initial program will include 10 students in fifth- through eighth-grade.

The goal of Drums Not Drugs is not only to teach students new skills, but also to instill discipline, structure and group cohesion, Mautte said.

The program is funded by a $10,000 grant from the Katharine Matthies Foundation.

"The children are really delighted about the program, the girls as well as the boys," said Naomi Wallace, arts director at the Tinney Center .

Wallace said a recent demonstration by two drummers from Ajali, a folk group from Trinidad , sparked the youngsters' enthusiasm to sign up for the course. Members of Ajali have been artists in residence at the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury since September 2000.

The music that will be taught is described as "Afro-Caribbean drumming."

"We're excited about this program," said center Director Greg Johnson. "They'll learn percussion, and they'll be staying off the streets."

The Valley Substance Abuse Action Council hopes program graduates will eventually mentor younger children and become involved in other positive youth initiatives in the Valley, Mautte said.

Drums Not Drugs is an interactive program with an antisubstance abuse message. The initiative promotes cultural diversity, self-expression, leadership, self-esteem and group worth.

Activities will focus on crafting and beating authentic African djembe drums.

Students will carve drums and learn to play multicultural rhythms in a drumming circle, perform for peer groups and record their own CD.

The first month is spent making the drums, or, more accurately, assembling the drums. Students receive all the materials necessary for crafting their own drum, including an authentic hand-carved African djembe shell, rings, head, rope and fabric. Students will learn the intricacies of lacing and tuning their drums, as well as the maintenance required.

The second month will be spent learning to play.

The third month is devoted to " Drumming Full Circle ," to develop student leaders who can lead new drum circles.

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Nov 05, 2002 Valley group gets 2 grants to curb substance abuse
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