Monday, January 25, 2010

Week 11: World Music Drumming

World Music Drumming!  What a way to start our spring semester of classes – filling the New England Conservatory halls with joyful rhythms and song.   In an earlier post I shared the news of a generous donation of drums and curriculum from Will Schmid and Remo Belli.  The 40-instrument World Drumming set arrived right before the holidays and the fellows were eager to break them in!   Will Schmid’s World Music Drum curriculum supported by Remo embraces many of the principles of El Sistema:  group ensemble, use of complex repertoire and folk music from the Americas and joyful music-making.

Whether adults or kids - drumming brings people together.  When I started a before-school drumming club at Glacier Valley Elementary School in Juneau, the sounds of the drums had a Pied Piper effect.  Children from the playground would gather around the music windows and teachers stopped at the door, all to witness the phenomenon of children completely absorbed in a drum circle.  Drumming is communal, inviting and accessible.  The same experience occurred here at NEC.  Once the fellows started drumming in the basement of Jordan Hall, students would stop and curiously peek through the classroom door windows.  Our drum circle quickly expanded to include different constituents from NEC - student, alum and Jordan Hall security guard - all brought together by the sheer joy of playing music together.

Music has that effect.  Rather than having to talk about the ideals of diversity, inclusiveness and cooperation; music allows a community to experience it.  Just imagine what it would be like if our schools and businesses began the day drumming together.

Thank you, Will Schmid and Remo Belli, for bringing your gift of music to NEC!  I am honored to share your music with the community of Boston and am looking forward to attending your World Music Drumming workshops this summer.   I took the Level I drumming workshop last summer in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin and highly recommend it.  In my next posting, I'll share the out-reach drum workshops I gave in Boston and Los Angeles.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Come Join Us: Become an Abreu Fellow for 2010-11

How would you like to join this ever-growing network of musicians and music educators committed to making instrumental ensemble and its life-long benefits accessible to all children?  Well, here's your chance!  The 2010-11 Abreu Fellowship application is now available online.

When I first learned of the Abreu Fellowship, I thought it was too good to be true.  Where can you find a program that offers such a unique blend of skills in music, education, leadership and organizational development all under the roof of such a prestigious music institution as the New England Conservatory?  The program has lived up to its mission and continues to impress me.  We have had a roster of incredible presenters during the fall semester, and the spring semester includes two months in Venezuela, where the fellows will observe, teach and experience first hand how music transcends cultural, economic and political barriers.

If you are a postgraduate musician or music educator “passionate for their art and for social justice” and are dedicated to developing El Sistema programs in the US, please consider applying.

The deadline is April 1st. For more information please visit:

Also, check out the new El Sistema USA Ning site, an online community forum where folks interested in El Sistema can share stories, ideas and thoughts about this inspiring music model for social change.  Come join us!