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Photo by Peggy Wallace
Welches students ‘drum’ up a lesson posted on 12/01/2019

On Friday, Nov. 8, students at Welches Middle School took to the stage to tell the story of how rock is eroded in a river and turns into pebbles. The performance was not conveyed through acting or even any words, but through drums.

As part of the Right Brain Initiative, Korekara Taiko, a Japanese drumming group based in Portland, spent two weeks at the Welches Schools, leading students in drumming lessons that centered on the values of cooperation, perseverance and respect. Each week culminated in a performance created by the students.

“Those drums just fill the room with sound,” said Welches Schools Principal Kendra Payne. “It’s really super awesome.”

Payne noted this is the sixth year the school has offered arts through the Right Brain Initiative, an arts integration program to help students link learning from one area to others, and the second time the drumming group has visited the schools.

In other years, the program brought different arts into the schools, including students performing Shakespeare, creating comics and making a mural of Mount Hood out of recycled objects.

Payne added that the core values that are part of the drumming program mirror those of the school and adding it to the fall schedule starts the year off on the right foot to build momentum in these areas.

“They really made those explicit links between the art form of drumming and the core values,” she said, noting that teachers and the artists were able to make connections between the values and daily occurrences, such as playground conflicts.

Michelle Fuji, taiko artist and co-director of Unit Souzou, the performance group associated with Korekara Taiko, said that they focus on encouraging students at each school to create their own voice.

“The joy and excitement that they get from hearing the drum is pretty special every time,” Fuji said. “It’s always remarkable to see how far they can express themselves through the drums.”

Fuji was also the Korekara Taiko instructor to visit Welches the first time, but during that year, she only worked with younger students in kindergarten through third grades.

This time, all students from the middle and elementary schools got to participate.

“It was really different; it was great,” she said. “Because all the students were involved, we could really show the level of expression.”

Payne echoed that sentiment, noting that it was valuable to have all the students share the same experience, while adding that the older students could explore more complicated and nuanced patterns.

“I think drumming is especially powerful for kids because it's a whole-body activity,” Payne said. “Every single part of them was involved in making music.”

The program was made possible due to the support from the school’s Rainbow Run in addition to support by the Starseed Foundation and the Paul and Sally McCracken Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation.

By Garth Guibord/MT




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