i've been a teacher of djembe and dunun for 4 years, but i've been playing djembe 4 times that long. when people ask me why i didn't start earlier, i tell them that i never wanted to be an authority on djembe, but also i never knew what teaching would come to mean to me.
before i began teaching djembe i had taught esl and health topics. english is a language that opens up many avenues for people - migration, jobs, meeting a wider range of people on travels, etc. health topics, on the other hand, educate the public on health issues and options. often it's a means to create bridges so that people can seek services when they are needed.
when i teach the djembe, it's all those things and more. it's not so much whether they can play with the right technique and feel, but to open up avenues for self expression, working together in harmony, creating bridges between people, inspiring and motivating, improving people's self esteem, the list goes on...
lately i've been involved a little more with corporate workshops, parties and schools. these are one-off workshops which aren't going to result in participants becoming good djembe players. that's not the focus. when i go out to a school, i teach the kids values about respect for teachers and elders, a little geography, a little hand-eye coordination and timing, and how to work together while having fun. with the corporates i show them how to let their guard down and reconnect with others, how each of them has different strengths they contribute, and to use that to work together in harmony as a team. with parties it's an icebreaker, perhaps a discovery that they can try something totally new and do reasonably well, a means to have lots of fun.
when teaching community groups, i incorporate elements of the other workshops i give, but i have the benefit of continuity. after trying a drumming lesson, i demand students make a small commitment to a 8 week course. once they have removed their scepticism and resolved to give their time and effort to the classes for the 8 weeks, i know that i can help them to grow as musicians and as people. during those 8 weeks they are going to learn 2 rhythms and songs, they are going to know the meaning of the songs and the purpose for which they're played, the dunun and djembe parts for them, have a better appreciation for the feel and swing, and improve their technique, coordination, playing speed, physical fitness, flexibility and even the quality of their voice.
can i really achieve all that? as a teacher, i am always confronted by 'i can't do that'. my response is always 'trust me, you can!'. most of the songs i teach aren't complicated. even if your voice is not great, you can learn to sing those songs well. the right degree of concentration, relaxation and work is the key. it's like meditation. one has to be present in the moment, very relaxed, yet keeping the mind focused on the task at hand. one also needs to work on it! nothing comes without work! so i work my students hard. i give them homework to do. i show them how to find the time to practice if they feel they are too busy. practice is best done in front of a drum but there are many other ways...
i've seen people become discouraged when they lacked the coordination to play what nearly everyone else around them was playing. it's not that they couldn't do it. they simply at that moment couldn't apply the level of relaxation and concentration needed to achieve the task.
so in essence i increase the realm of possibility for my students. when they see what they can do, they start to want to work harder, to try new things. i encourage them to apply this to other areas of their life, too.
in the end, people come and go. many of them later return. some of them become good drummers, some of them have joined my drumming group or other groups. others have applied the lessons they learned to other aspects of their lives. and some keep coming to learn more culture, rhythm and music and be part of a happy community. i'm thrilled with any of these outcomes.
Last edited by bubudi on Tue Apr 20, 2010 6:50 am, edited 3 times in total.
10 Comments Viewed 115091 times
Hey Dude, Nice post, thanks for sharing. It's great to get an insight into your thoughts and beliefs!
Thanks for sharing! One of the things about teaching that I find most rewarding is that it puts a smile on people's faces. For that hour or two, they forget all about work, family, problems, and stresses and sit there being right in the moment. That's incredibly healing for many people. So, being a teacher, I also end up being a healer, like it or not.
Have you read that book about the neurophysiology of drumming - I forget the guy's name, Robert someone? He talks about how playing the looped rhythms puts the brain into alpha state, like meditation - I always figure that's why people can arrive het up and leave smiling. I used to work with a severly autistic boy who didn't communicate at all. The second time I worked with him - and consistently after that - he spoke for up to half an hour after the session - amazing.
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I like your way, it generates more interest and breaks the early barrier for beginners. They can feel the drum better when its not all that complicated. As they grow in drumming they themselves try to find the discipline in the rhythyms.
If you want to see me kick some butt, just tell me about all the things you think I won't be able to do
That's a very nice post! As someone who (re)started playing an instrument in my middle age, it does give me a way to forget about everything else and be in the moment -- when I take a class or when I practice. Now, I am starting to try a little bit on a second instrument with Djembe, and it's a whole another world.
Thank you for sharing your passion!
many thanks for the comments!
amanda, it's a real pleasure to make a difference in someone's life. i found it incredibly rewarding when my lessons helped a student to regain his stamina after years of suffering from a rare illness.
adam, there is a malinke proverb: doni doni kono nita niama (little by little the bird builds its nest). it's very satisfying to see it take shape.
vink, i wish you lots of enjoyment in both your instruments.
atam, keep the fire alive! it has to be fed from time to time and personally i've found that is best done through my own learning.
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