Drumming up junk percussion

SUQUAMISH — Students file into Suquamish Elementary’s E3 portable classroom with excited eyes as they each sit down with an empty plastic bucket at their feet and a wooden stick in each hand. The room dissolves into racketing chaos until Andrew Drury syncs the group into one mighty rhythm.

Boom, bah-bah, boom, bah, boom ... Boom, bah-bah, boom, bah, boom!

“It’s really powerful,” said Suquamish fine arts teacher Tami Rabura.

“It’s almost totally unmanageable but the kids are great.” Drury added. “This is an offshoot of the records, performances and touring that I do, I wanted to bring as much of my artistic world into schools as I can.”

Drury, a professional jazz musician who has been drumming since he was in elementary school, recently spent two weeks at Suquamish Elementary harnessing the potential of everyday objects to become instruments and honing the possibility of everyday students to become musicians.

In his business, Drury has witnessed and heard of children in other places of the world — like Haiti and Africa — who ritually bang out rhythms with astonishing ability; those beats sparked a thought in Drury’s mind.

“That tells me there is something cultural happening there, and there is no reason it can’t happen here,” he said.

He was right.

From Feb. 21 to March 3, Drury spent the school days providing percussion instruction to all of the students at Suquamish Elementary. He also worked with Suquamish Elementary’s Rhythm and Power Ensemble — SERAPE — which is the school’s eight-member drumming group that meets regularly during lunchtimes, Rabura said.

Over the course of the two weeks Drury said he had spotted many individual bundles of talent.

“I’m trying to teach them how to have fun through music, through drumming,” Drury noted. “If they can do that, and if they are playing then they are paying attention to the group and they are focused.”

When kids’ minds are focused and engaged they can travel extraordinary places, Drury said. He added that the pinnacle of the session in his mind was when a group united their collective focus on a rhythm or beat.

“Making the music, when everyone gets in the zone” Drury tried to explain his favorite part of the sessions, searching for the words depict an indescribable feeling.

If one hasn’t experienced it, it’s tough to truly know what it is like, Drury said. But imagine a tribal version of the Broadway show “Stomp.”

“It’s neat to see (the students) shine doing this and taking on composing,” Rabura said, noting that the kids spent time during the two weeks framing beats which they performed at a school assembly March 3.

The audience of students, teachers and parents at the assembly was enthralled by the rhythms as Drury led his beat-teams with such passion that his face turned bright red. Heads were bobbing, kids were bouncing and toes were tapping on Suquamish Elementary’s blue gym floor as 80 sticks ricocheted off 40 buckets to the driving beat.

“The group vibe is really strong. They are getting to experience something in a totally different way,” Drury said of the overall experience, adding, “The kids are so cool.”

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