Thursday, June 25, 2009
bring the noise
This past week was the last week of school, and to celebrate, my program welcomed world renowned drumming master Tony Vacca for three days of percussion instruction and performances. Let me tell you folks, he was loud with a capital L. But he succeeded in grabbing the attention of everyone--kids, staff, and teachers alike--and by the end of his stint, we had a bonafide drumming ensemble going on in the clink! It was a sight (and sound) to behold.
Tony didn't just show up and go, "Ok kids, here's how you play the drums," whambamwhambam and then let them go off and play willy-nilly. No. Tony talked about his experience with drumming, some of the people he's met in his drumming travels (he's been all over the African continent and beyond) and--here's the best part--he talked extensively about the drum as a voice. Drumming, like all music, is self expression. But the drum has the unique ability to capture the simple essence of rhythm. It can be done with very little in the way of knowledge and materials. And when you add the sung and spoken word, as Tony did with a set on drumming, poetry and creative writing, you've got something magical. I saw it happen. Kids of all "reading" abilities were engaged and able to shine. It was beautiful.
During a break, I talked to Tony and told him I loved what he did with the kids, how they really seemed to respond to his presence and open up to a stranger. Not something they do easily. It occurred to me that Tony and I are both literacy teachers. I work more with the traditional "big 5" of textual reading instruction (phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension). But Tony's bent on literacy has to do with developing and expressing voice, and becoming literate about the self and our relationship to the world. How can you have one without the other? To be a truly literate person, you gotta crack the books and bring the noise.
I'd love to be able to weave pieces of Tony's drumming workshop into my instruction during the regular school year somehow. Suggestions welcome!