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Dancing to a different drum
|Messenger photos by Whitney Wilson Coy
|Emma Willis, Heidi Flores and Kyana Moorhead, all third graders from Prairie Norton Elementary, try thier hand at multicultural drumming during an assembly put on Capital University’s Eric Paton.
|Paton demonstrates a song on an authentic taiko drum from Japan.
Students at Prairie Norton Elementary School recently had the chance to dance to the beat of many different drums.
Eric Paton, a performer and music teacher from Capital University specializing in percussion from around the world, visited the school on Jan. 12 as a part of the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s (GCAC) Artists-in-Schools program.
Although most would think of drums as a medium mostly used for teaching in music class, students at Prairie Norton utilized drums in all aspects of learning during the weeks leading up to Paton’s visit.
Not only did students learn about the cultural aspects of the instrument and its history in social studies classes, but they also worked with drums in art class. In math, students had to measure drums to find the circumference and graph which drums they liked the most. In science, they had to predict what types of sounds each drum would make. Drums were even studied in reading, where the children had to listen to a drum pattern and repeat it, teaching them memorization and listening skills. They also participated in reading and writing activities about the instrument.
“In a lot of ways, the music helps the student with what they learn,” said Prairie Norton Elementary music teacher Beth Reece.
After all this hard work and preparation, students were ready for their payoff - a multicultural drum assembly.
“All the kids are so excited. This was all they talked about all day Friday,” Reece said just before the start of the Monday morning program.
During the assembly, Paton, also known as “The Fish,” introduced the children to drums from Brazil, the Caribbean Islands, Japan, Cuba and West Africa.
But Paton doesn’t just play the drums. Dressed in authentic Japanese garb from his head to his shoes, Paton gives his audience the full experience with his enthusiastic movements and his use of the native languages to accompany the music.
Raised in Tokyo, Japan, Paton traveled across the globe to study music at Capital University.
“They’re famous,” he said.
He received his degree in 1989 and became a faculty member for the school in 1990.
Now, aside from his responsibilities at Capital, Paton travels the globe performing and studying his favorite medium. When he returns, he shares what he learned with his students, both at the university and through the GCAC.
The concept behind Paton’s assembly began in 1994 when he was commissioned by BalletMet to write a song for a musical that children could play on five-gallon pickle buckets.
“It just grew from there,” he said.
The children he visits now still get to play on the pickle buckets, but they have plenty of other drums to choose from as well, the most popular with Prairie Norton students being large blue janitor drums, fitted with authentic taiko drum skins.
The program was paid for by a grant through South-Western City Schools, according to Reece.
To learn more about Paton or the Greater Columbus Arts Council, log on to www.gcac.org.
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