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The Drum Is Always With You


Let’s talk about confidence and kids – two words that when put together spell out our future. After all, it’s confident, self-actualized young people who’ll make good decisions and light up the world we’ll all come to live in. Teachers and parents always want to instill confidence in kids, but there’s no playbook for how to do that. Attention, love, acknowledgment – all these things contribute.  Recently, we ran a Drum Cafe program at a school where this topic stood front and center.

Emeka Simmons, one of our facilitators, drummed with over 300 seniors at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Corona, California.  This wasn’t just any senior class. This was the first senior class to have finished all four years at this new high school. They were all bursting with enthusiasm, having actually voted to have Drum Cafe run a program for them. Sounds like an easy team to lead to victory, right?  Well, on the surface, yes. With graduation in sight, what senior wouldn’t be ready to celebrate? But Emeka knew better. With every ending comes a daunting beginning. And when he looked out into the sea of faces that morning, he saw some expressions that spoke volumes.

“Where’s your voice?”, Emeka asked the students. They released a big scream.  Each student began to drum, starting with the bass note, the note that forms the foundation from which each individual note can later distinguish itself.  Immediately, unity was felt and from that unity came each drummer’s chance to stretch. “Here’s your time to shine”, Emeka said, pointing to one student as he quieted the rest.  That student made his own rhythmic statement, to which the entire class responded.  Imagine the feeling…300 drummers following your beat – whatever beat that is.

“The drum is always with you,” Emeka declared. And this statement hits the heartbeat of the matter.  The drum is a metaphor for the voice. Each student has a voice that needs to sound like a clarion, to ensure that the voice is heard. The students felt this during the program, and were reminded at a critical time in their lives to know the worth of their voice. Emeka knew that when graduation came and went, these students would be separated from their pack, and need a tool to reconnect to their own individual power and purpose. What better way than through the cell memory of rhythm and drumming?

At any given moment, we all have access to a specific memory. The graduating seniors of Eleanor Roosevelt High School will be able to access the memory of that hour they spent with Drum Cafe. And from that memory, they will connect to their voice – their own tone note – and move forward with rhythm, confidence and good intention.

In Rhythm and Joy,

Natalie Spiro

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