Drumming program a big hit at local rec center

The drum program at W.R. Anderson Community Center has been a big hit with the kids.

Drumming program a big hit at local rec center
July 21
15:01 2021

For a school-aged child, the summer months are a great time to acquire a new skill or hobby. Several young boys and girls at the W.R. Anderson Community Center’s summer camp have taken advantage of the drumming program directed by volunteer Abdul Muhammad.

Muhammad, a native of New Jersey, has been in the Triad area for the last few years and wanted to bring his wealth of music knowledge to the kids of the rec center. He trains the kids on drum rhythm and how to create new music.

“I am a percussionist anyway and I had instruments in the garage, so I said I might as well make use of them,” Muhammad said about his motivation to start the program. “So, that’s when I contacted Bryant (McCorkle) and told him what I wanted to do.”

Muhammad meets with the kids on Mondays and Thursdays for an hour, teaching them different drumming techniques. He originally brought the program in during the summer of 2019, but due to the pandemic he had to skip 2020. This year he wanted to make up for lost time and get back to what he loves, teaching kids.

The children in the camp range in skill from beginners to those Muhammad thinks have a future in percussion. He enjoys teaching all skill levels and seeing the progression in the kids.

“They all have their own disposition and you have to work with them,” he said. “Like the ones I was playing with, those are the ones that are into it. The others are still too young and like to just play around.  

“I teach them different techniques on the instrument and from time to time I bring in different instruments so they can get used to something outside of the guitar or something like that. A lot of the instruments that I have are African instruments, so I try to familiarize them with culture also, because what’s happening in the environment has really taken away the culture.”

Muhammad uses different items in his class. He knows many parents aren’t able to buy drums at the drop of a hat, so he uses paint cans, gallon cans and 5-gallon containers for the kids to use as drums.  

The classes are not driven by Muhammad the entire time. He prefers to get things started and once the class is in a groove, allow one of the kids to take the lead.

“I kind of start the beat to bring everyone in and then once they are in, I will pull out and let them do their thing,” he continued. “You can’t get to the point where you take control over the whole thing, you have to let them do their thing, because they might have potential that I might not have, and I can learn from them.”

There has been less focus on the arts for kids in the school system as there was 30 years ago. Muhammad feels it’s important for children to be exposed to the arts, because they translate to so many other areas of life.

Muhammad realizes that every student will not take to his teaching, so he enjoys seeing those who are really taking his classes seriously. He takes great pleasure in watching a kid’s skills progress week after week.

“I think it gives you hope that the future is not lost, it’s still there, but you have to tap into it,” he said. “They all have that potential to be creative.”

Several of Muhammad’s students at the rec center have really taken to the classes and shown a lot of promise with percussion. These students really look forward to the classes every time Muhammad shows up.

“I like drumming a lot, because it’s musical and you get to make a lot of beats and it’s just fun,” said 12-year-old Cameron Woodyard. “I have always been interested in music and the best thing is you get to burn off some steam; the music is spiritual and it’s just really fun.”

Zackary Williams added, “It’s different from just playing games or staying in the house. It gives you an idea of what you can do in the future. It’s unique and different from other things.”

“The drumming program, I like it because it makes me like drumming more than I used to and it makes me better than I used to be,” said Zion Green. “Sometime in the future, maybe I can get into a band or something.”

Working with kids is nothing new for Muhammad. For years he worked in the juvenile justice system and used drumming for conflict resolution.  

Music has been close to the heart of Muhammad for as long as he can remember, he said. He says his percussion days started as he was banging on his mother’s pots and pans in the kitchen and manifested from there. Over the years, he has worked with several groups and is proficient with a multitude of percussion instruments. 

Muhammad also used music as a teaching tool. He would bring in instruments and have his students research the instrument to discover the history of it. The student would then report what they learned to Muhammad during the next class.

Passing along knowledge to the next generation is very important for Muhammad. He says it would be irresponsible for him not to pass along what he knows to those younger than him.

Ultimately, he would love to take his drumming program to other rec centers, or even the school system.

“I think we should just give back,” he said. “One thing Gil Scott-Heron said, he said ‘each one, teach one,’ and that’s what we should be doing, so it’s a failure on our part.  I just want to do my part.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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