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ERHS offering African drumming course

Park high school students Collin Gibbs and Tonia Kruczek have participated in Marc Anderson's African Drumming Ensemble previously, and have returned because of how much they enjoy it.2 / 2

Think back to when you were a child. Did you ever drum on your mother's pots and pans?

"Everybody wants to bang on something," said East Ridge High School music director Chris Tank. "It's all based on the primal instinct of a human to want to express themselves -- you just had to learn how to beat on a drum to get the right message across."

ERHS is offering a chance for students to get in touch with the ancient idea of communicating through music with a new after-school class, "African Drumming Ensemble."

During the class, students will learn a variety of drumming styles from Ghana and Haiti from professional musician Marc Anderson.

Anderson has been a professional musician for nearly 25 years and has been teaching drumming classes at a variety of metro schools -- including Cottage Grove Middle School and Park High School -- for many years.

"Drumming is vibrant and alive so the energy is compelling and captivating --it really has the joy and the fun," Anderson said. "Drumming also has such a long, deep and rich tradition -- you can have a really rich and wonderful experience."

African drumming uses hand-crafted hand drums, as well as other percussion instruments, as a way to communicate. Singing is also incorporated into the musical numbers since African drumming is a very oral tradition, Tank said.

"It's the bare roots of how to communicate using sound and doing it in the right kind of way," Tank said.

In addition to learning the techniques and styles of African drumming, the African Drumming Ensemble will also give students an opportunity to perform -- at local schools, local nursing homes, local museums and possibly Fort Snelling and the State Capitol.

Anderson said the music may be challenging to pick up within the first couple months since it is not based on rhythm or written music, but he said students should be able to adapt within two or three months.

Open to all students

Tank offered the African drumming class when he taught at Park High School and said he decided to bring it over to East Ridge because of the interest the class generated.

"I brought the class here because I wanted to diversify the culture here," he said.

The African drumming class is open to students Park and Woodbury high schools as well, Tank said.

Tank said exposing students to different styles of music encourages them to expand their thinking and open their minds to different cultures.

Additionally, Tank said he's hoping that by offering the African drumming class to all three high schools, it will help students unite and recognize those differences as well.

"It's really good to bring that diversity together," he said. "And music can break down barriers and bring things together."

Tank and Anderson are hoping to get around 20 students in the ensemble. Tank said he hopes students are curious and want to see what it is.

"Everybody has a musician inside them and that curiosity can be developed very quickly," he said.

African Drumming Ensemble meets Mondays and Wednesday from 3:30-4:30 in the East Ridge High School orchestra room.

Visit www.woodbury for a sample of the African Drumming Ensemble.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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