Spotlight on West African drumming

West African Drumming class playing at the CABE convention. Rachel Antonucci

BY ABBY CHARRON

Canton Middle School that everyone is looking to sign up for. Not only does this experiential teach students in 8th grade basic musical skills, it also includes culture, auditory senses, and opportunities like no other class has to offer. Under the auditorium lights, a group of students sat in chairs behind unique and beautiful drums. As they effortlessly slapped their instruments, the music filled the room, its rhythms creating a song the students had been patiently rehearsing. It was something that seemed so difficult, yet the students did with confidence and delight.

The West African Drumming class was introduced in the 2017-2018 school year by Elizabeth DiDomenico, 34, an instrumental music teacher at the intermediate, middle, and high schools. This middle school experiential runs twice a year, and is open to any student who wants to join, regardless of  musical background. There’s no prerequisite to be in band or chorus; anyone can come and take the class.

When DiDomenico was asked to create a new experiential, she thought West African Drumming would be a perfect way for students to experience a new type of music, after previously teaching the class in Southington. Students can choose from various  instruments, such as accompaniment drums, lead drums, bells and shakers. The drums and musical pieces both originated directly from Ghana.

In addition to teaching drumming techniques, the class shows students the importance of the other  components needed to create music especially community effort and listening skills. Collective drumming is the only way to make the music and students need to perfect their auditory senses because they are taught orally, with no sheet music. Students need to learn the background of the culture to grasp the meaning of what is being played, looking at the West African culture through a  beautiful lens. 

“There’s also a mindfulness component to [drumming] too because it’s kind of repetitive, so it’s about staying present and in the moment,” DiDomenico said. 

The class has become so popular that it many of the students who requested it have been turned away because it fills up quickly. 

On Saturday, November 16th, the West African Drumming group was selected to perform at the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) convention at the Mystic Marriott Hotel in Groton, CT. The students opened up the convention, and provided a workshop afterwards, where they led some of the superintendents and board of education members through the drumming. 

“I’m really thankful for the support that Canton has given this program,” DiDomenico said.