By Steven S. Klotz, Embrace Music Foundation
The musical journey known as Rhythms of Africa / Music Around the World achieves its destination when 35 children, all musical novices, perform at Bailey Hall on the Davie campus of Broward College, Sunday afternoon, October 27th. A capacity crowd is anticipated.
This iteration of the program features children from Broward’s HANDY program, mostly drawn from Lauderdale Lakes Middle School, where they’ve been practicing weekly since August. Guided by “Reggae Ambassador” Willie Stewart, former percussionist and co-director of the international band Third World, children have been drilled in a variety of percussion techniques while learning about the African origins of the beats and instruments they must master for the performance.
As always, the October performance will feature professional musicians joining the youngsters on stage to play together. This time the show will be further enhanced by energetic dancers from Jubilee Dance Theatre and athletic performers from Chie Moo Arts, Inc., whose artistic directors have worked out routines with Willie to emphasize the music’s roots in the African Diaspora.
Does this put pressure on the kids? After all, they’re just teenagers with no experience working with professional artists, let alone performing on stage.
“I guess we’ll find out when we get there,” says AZ, who has put in just 15 hours total on the djembe drum. “But so far, from what I can see and hear, it’s just a matter of staying inside the bubble here, keeping up with what they’re teaching us and asking us to do. Look — some of us catch on faster than others, but if we just stay on it, we’ll all get where he need to be when we have to.”
The Reggae Ambassador entertains no doubts. “This is the power of the music, the transformational dynamic in action,” he states. “We’ve seen it time after time. We put drums in their hands and tell them they can do it; that in just a few short weeks they’ll find themselves part of something bigger, better, and more powerful than anything they’ve been involved in before, and it happens. It carries then right through the workshops and rehearsals to the performance, and beyond, into their lives and future. Just watch!”
It’s further demonstration of the vital role the arts play in the education and development of children, and compelling evidence that supports ensuring the availability of arts programs in schools.
It also happens to be an amazing show — Be there!