Cultural Voices, a community-building percussion residency with lasting results

Culture comes alive!
Rob Zollman brings to your school Cultural Voices, an ear and eye opening experience involving rhythm and rhythm based hands-on activities. It is a dynamic, multifaceted residency that provides students with experiences that resonate well beyond the time Rob is there.

Cultural voice scan simply offer enrichment for your arts program by exploring the outer and inner worlds of rhythm and community, but it can also be the centerpiece for something much larger. Cultural Voices interfaces with your mainstream curriculum, allowing students to make connections to language (speech and fluency, prose and poetry), visual art, math, science, history and music.

Voices of Culture – Cultural Voices
We live in a world filled with endless cultural influences. Wherever we are, we carry the voices of our own culture’s traditions, language, art and music. We bring these with us as we spend time together in schools and in our larger communities. Then we create new voices, individually and collectively. One of the most powerful ways to express these voices is through rhythm. And drumming can form the base for finding our own rhythm and voices.

Why rhythm, why drumming?
Each person has the potential to understand and make music, and everyone has rhythm. Rhythm is a truly universal language, and naturally creates a sense of community that can bridge any number of gaps and potential biases. Community rhythm circles, also known as drum circles, are a great way to bring cultures together in a spirit of community. The success of a drum circle is not dependent on the group’s musical talent or ability, but more on a sensitivity and group awareness based on listening and spontaneous in-the-moment expression. Participants become both audience and players, sharing a musical experience that results in harmony, unity, and feelings of wellness for all present.

Cultural Voices: what it is, who it’s for, how it works…
Cultural Voices uses universal rhythms, rhythm circles, songs and stories that helpdevelop a sense of culture and community in your school. It includes everyone, because everyone has a voice and thus has something to offer.

Residencies are offered in different formats: one day, a week or two, or a long term residency can be spread out for a few hours each week over several months. This can allow for other connected activities to take place around the sessions of the residency.

Prior to the beginning of the residency, several things happen. For the residency itself, preparatory materials are assembled and activities are planned and scheduled. Age and developmentally appropriate activities can be tailored towards individual grades or grade clusters.

Decisions and projects around curricular connections are planned as well. These activities can precede, coincide and follow the actual residency period. The important thing is to give students multiple opportunities to explore their own personal voices by connecting with language, art, math, science and history.

The residency requires instruments. These can be rented from Hands-On Music, or if your school would like to begin, or add to, its permanent instrument collection, we can provide instruments for purchase.

Just as the music we make has multi-cultural influences, instruments come from around the globe. They loosely come from four families – drums, woods, shakers and metals. Drums include jembes, gathering drums, djun djuns, bongos, frame drums and gathering drums. Woods include striking and scraping percussion instruments such as blocks, claves, frogs, and guiros. Egg shakers, maracas, rainsticks and caxixxi make up the shaker family. Metals can be cowbells, African gongokui,

Brazilian agogo bells, gongs, finger cymbals and triangles. We also use found objects such as tins, frying and sauce pans, and bottle shakers.

The process
Typically, Rob meets several times with individual classes where he facilitates group improvisations around universal rhythmic grooves. Students learn about the beat, the groupings and patterns that we call rhythm. The importance of repetition, leaving space and listening to one another, singing songs and telling stories – both literally and figuratively – is stressed. For the youngest groups, actual stories may be acted out using percussion. Older groups are encouraged to tell musical stories, individually creating their part, then working interactively in small groups and as a full class. Movement and singing games are played, with and without percussion, but always emphasizing group dynamics.

Our goal is to create something larger and more wonderful than any one person could make. Team building and good feelings are the norm. Students have lots of hands-on experience. Formal instruction is minimal, occurring when the musical ideas require basic technical knowledge and as time permits.

After a specific number of sessions, each class participates in a low pressure informance (informal, informational performance) for the larger student body and parents. This places much importance on the process, as most of the value is accomplished during the classes. Like the classes, the informance is intended to reflect an in-the-moment experience, rather than a series of finished pieces. Its purpose is more to give a demonstration of how the process took place. Schools are encouraged to archive on video both the classes and informance.

Usually, following the residency classes work in many connected areas. The photos shown here represent just a few of the projects students did at the Mary Hogan school. In the case of Mary Hogan, Rob came back several weeks after the final informance to celebrate their annual Writing Night. That evening he facilitated a rhythm circle as a reunion for the students who participated in the residency and their families.

All costs are specific to the extent of the residency’s requirements. Factors include how much time/how many days Rob will be at your school and whether your school rents or purchases equipment.

For those schools applying for grant funding, Rob will give you all the pertinent information needed and even assist you in writing the grant, if necessary.

About Rob Zollman