Drugs, Gangs and Violence with Drums & Rhythms
by Dave Mancini
Working with kids has always been a passion of mine. Over the last
15 years, I have visited colleges, high schools and junior high schools
throughout the US and Canada as a guest artist and clinician. I perform
with the students, share my professional experiences and present master
classes and clinics.
I found that through music, kids could be encouraged, inspired and
motivated, not only in their musical endeavors, but in other areas
as well. In addition, I realized I could be a positive role model
for them by encouraging them to use their creative talents in a positive
way to avoid the temptation to involve themselves in any negative
For the past several years, I have been an artist in residence at
Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth. It was here that I met Lieutenant
Leon "Rick" Flowers, who is involved in the outreach program "We Love
Kids." Rick is a D.A.R.E. officer and specializes in both drug and
gang prevention. Rick and I love working with kids, and once we discovered
that we shared this interest, we began hands-on drum/percussion workshops
with young people in the Fort Worth area. The students we work with
range in age from elementary school through high school. It is not
often that kids see a police officer play drums or percussion, so
it puts the officer in a different light and they see him as a regular
person. More importantly, they see the officer as their friend.
The primary goal of our workshops is to get the kids excited about
drums, percussion and music in general, and to encourage them to participate
in music programs that are available to them. In our workshops, we
talk to the kids about the fact that they will have to make choices
in their lives. Drumming and music are good choices, but it is important
that we offer them this choice.
Rick Flowers and I recently presented three workshops at the National
D.A.R.E. Conference in Washington, D.C. for police officers and teachers
from around the country. In the workshops, we illustrated the use
of drumming as a positive alternative for kids and instructed them
in establishing drum ensembles in their own communities.
Establishing a drum ensemble in your community is relatively easy.
There are three initial requirements to get started: a place for the
ensemble to meet, a few drums and hand held percussion instruments
and one or more instructors.
Drum ensembles can rehearse at schools, churches, community recreation
centers or outreach centers. In Fort Worth, Rick Flowers works with
an ensemble that meets once a week at a dance studio/rehearsal space
that belongs to a local university. The university provides the rehearsal
space at no charge for the group.
The instruments that we use for our drum ensembles include drum set,
congas, djembes, ashikos, tubanos, as well as smaller instruments
such as cowbells, agogo bells, tamborims, claves, shakers, triangles,
cabasas, shekeres and wood blocks. However, it is not necessary to
have all of these instruments. A small assortment will work very well.
We usually have 8-10 kids playing at one time. I play drum set to
accompany them, and we assign basic rhythms on the other drums and
percussion instruments. The rhythms we utilize in our workshops are
basic African, Brazilian and calypso rhythms.
If your ensemble meets at a school that already owns a variety of
drums, then the challenge of obtaining instruments is solved. However,
if you do not have access to these instruments, there are a number
of solutions. We found that many individuals and businesses within
the community are willing to help out with a program that benefits
kids and keeps them away from drugs, gangs and violence. In some cases,
music dealers and manufacturers have donated instruments and accessories.
Individuals and non-musical businesses are sometimes willing to make
a monetary donation for the purpose of purchasing instruments for
The last requirement for establishing a drumming ensemble is instructors.
One instructor can supervise the rehearsal, but two are ideal, especially
when there are scheduling conflicts and one of them cannot make the
rehearsal. It also works well to have two instructors who alternate
rehearsals. The important thing is that there is always an instructor
available so that the ensemble can meet regularly, either weekly or
every other week. The kids need to have something to look forward
to on a regular basis.
In conclusion, just have fun working with the kids. The rewards are
wonderful and know that you are making a difference in their lives.
For more information about "We Love Kids," please contact Dave Mancini
at P.O. Box 812, Pittsford, NY 14534.