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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NE students pound djembe drums to learn rhythm

By Colt Langley/sports editor

NE Campus drum circle instructor Warren Dewey takes the role of facilitator to direct certain rhythms with claves to his students during a recent class.
Colt Langley/The Collegian

Sitting in a circle with drums in hand, students beat out some African rhythms.

Taught by Warren Dewey, students of NE Campus’ drum circle class learn how to keep rhythm with a hand drum called a djembe.

In the beginning of class, students start out with a constant simple beat. Once everybody is in sync, one person will stand up and give the others in the circle their own rhythm.

After a while, the music suddenly takes a new shape that could not have been heard before.

This formula of drum circle, called facilitating, is used around the world.

Dewey has played percussion for many years and studied with rhythm ambassador Arthur Hull, who teaches facilitating drum circle techniques to various types of people from camp counselors to business executives.

Incorporated into drum circles is an international sign language.

The language is used so facilitators can give commands to those drumming in the circle. Some signs used are eye contact, thumbs up or down, arms raised up, hands shaking and hands out with palms up.

Established eye contact enables the facilitataor to communicate with a specific individual. Thumbs up or down signals a player’s tempo while raised arms tell the player how loud to play.

Hands shaking tells a player to rumble their hands on the drum, and hands out with palms up invites a player to join in.

To signal specific rhythms to individual members of the group, facilitators use claves, small percussion instruments that make it easy to demonstrate a beat.

When class begins, Dewey takes the role of the facilitator and then hands it off to a student. He said it is important for the facilitator to keep time.

“It’s like our heartbeat. When our heart skips a beat, we’re in trouble,” Dewey said.

Dewey tells his student facilitators not to be in the circle too long, just go in to set a mood.

Also while setting the mood, it’s good to have a vibrant energy because energy is contagious, he said.

Aside from the djembe, students also play other exotic percussion instruments including Brazilian and African instruments.

Drum circle student Mercedes Gloria said she enjoys playing percussion in the ensemble.

“It’s an encouraging group,” Gloria said. “What I like about hand drums is you don’t have to mess with frets, chords or strings. It’s just like pounding your hands, basically.”

Because only four students signed up for the class, drum circle was almost canceled.

“But Warren Dewey offered to teach it for no pay,” said Karen Parsons, music department chair. “He knew these four students needed the opportunity to play in an ensemble.”

Drum circle student April Kisselburg said she would have remained in the class even if she did not receive credit.

“It’s really not an issue to me because the music director here is awesome,” Kisselburg said. “She [Parsons] has really worked with my schedule.”

Kisselburg said her interest in drums is because of her sister, who teaches drums professionally in San Diego.

Dewey said the class fits well for students coming out of high school bands.

“It’s a great outlet for students who got burned out in their high school band,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about practicing 20 hours a week.”

Students interested in taking the class can sign up for the fall semester class, 7:05 to 8:50 p.m. Mondays.

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