Select group of students chosen for Bengal Beat

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Percussion discussion

drum

beat

rhythm

pounding

By Laura Johnston ~ Southeast Missourian

Recognizing musical talent when she sees it, Pam Dumey chose a select group of students to form a new percussion ensemble at Central Middle School.

The 15 members of Bengal Beat rehearse once a week after school and perform upon invitation around the community.

The idea for the group grew out of an Orff-Schulwerk music conference Dumey attended last summer. Orff is a method for teaching music based on things children like to do, like clap, dance and rhyme while keeping a beat.

While at the meeting, Dumey heard about a group of students who perform as a drum ensemble in Florida. She decided to try it here: selecting a group of sixth-grade students to form the group.

She chose the 15 students, all boys except for one girl, for their ability to keep a steady rhythm. A few weeks into the new school year, she knew which students would be best for the percussion group.

The students are primarily learning African and Middle Eastern drumming, though sometimes they like to make up their own songs, Dumey said.

"They love to jam," she said.

The group practices each Thursday after school and recently accompanied the school choir at the Martin Luther King Jr. community celebration.

The only problem Bengal Beat faces is a lack of drums for its membership. The drums range in price from $150 to $400.

Dumey is in the process of writing a grant to get more instruments for the program, and to hire a professional drummer to come as artist-in-residence and teach the students about African drumming.

If she's successful, the grant would pay for a St. Louis-based drummer to teach once a month at the middle school. At the end of the year, students would have a chance to play with a master drummer from the Ivory Coast.

Dumey admits she's not an expert in African drumming, though she did take a summer course in world music drumming. "I'm learning right along with the kids," she said.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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