Your Students in New Areas of Percussion
One of the many challenges that percussion educators encounter is
how to involve their students in new areas of percussion. Some marching
band students are not interested in jazz or ethnic drumming, and mallet
students are not always involved in snare, timpani or drum set. Recently,
we asked some of our educators how they were addressing this issue.
Following are excerpts from some of the responses we received.
"If you want someone to listen to you and engage you in conversation,
then you must seek out the common ground that exists between the two
of you. In much the same way, if you teach percussion and want to
interest your students in new areas of study, you must help them discover
the common ground that exists between what they do now, what they
like and are comfortable with, and what they have yet to explore.
For example, a colleague of mine has a summer percussion camp, which
offers the study of ethnic percussion. During one of those camps,
he presented a clinic on the ‘clave.' He played excerpts from various
popular forms of music and showed the students the presence of the
‘clave' within each song. When the students began to hear and see
that the 'clave' was very much a part of Beck's hit, 'Loser' and 'Hand
Jive' from the movie Grease, they had evidence of a link between something
they knew and liked and something they might, perhaps, explore."
- Neal Flum, Athens High School, current Alabama P.A.S. Secretary
and former Past President.
"One way I encourage my students (without them even knowing it) is
to play for them. Be it marimba, vibraphone, timpani, congas, or whatever
the situation calls for, I try to give a little insight to what the
possibilities are with practice. Playing videos, tapes or CDs is another
way for them to hear what is attainable. This has not only given them
encouragement, but it also encourages me as a teacher. It instills
a good attitude within the students, which translates into them practicing
not only the things that they already feel comfortable with, but also
the things that they do not feel as comfortable with. The results
are outstanding. The students are practicing more, which enables them
to feel a certain amount of success, and after all, isn't that what
teaching is all about?" - Chris Retschulte, Blackstone Regional
School District, former Teaching Assistant from the University of
Massachusetts under Thom Hannum.
"As you motivate your percussion students to move beyond the marching
field and into the world of total percussion, remember to take small
steps. Take comfort in knowing that your goal of molding these marching
percussionists into total percussionists will be achieved if you maintain
an educational philosophy that emphasizes total percussion education.
Set your expectations for your students to be total percussionists.
If these same students are in concert band, have them trade off parts.
Each student should strive to perform on as many different percussion
instruments as possible. If you have a school pep band, use a total
percussion setup of drum set, congas, Latin percussion, bells and
vibes instead of a marching setup. Remember, it is much easier to
start your beginner students as total percussionists than to wait
until they are in high school." - Dan Fyffe, Franklin Central
High School, 1998 WGI Scholastic Concert World Champions.
"One answer to the question is the concert percussion ensemble. This
will help keep the students motivated and become better all-around
percussionists. The percussion ensemble is also a great way to teach
different instruments and skills. A variety and balance in programming
for the ensemble are the keys to keeping students interested. Try
to pick a variety of selections that you think your students will
like and that will lend themselves to the percussion and musical concepts
you are trying to teach. Other considerations when selecting music
are the different performing aspects such as creative stage setups
(risers), dress (costumes), lighting and other visual effects. Another
suggestion is to bring in a guest artist to perform with the group.
This is educationally beneficial for both the students and the instructor.
The world of percussion is so large that there are no limits, just
use your imagination and have fun!" - Mike Lynch, Lassiter High
School, 1998 BOA Grand National Champions.