Rat, tat, tat: Drumming creates rhythm, builds connections

Guiding the drum circle
Music teacher Justin Depaolis-Metz guided second-graders Jakob Mauch, Abdi Hassan and Verolyne Wilson in an early morning drum circle activity at Kennedy Elementary School in April.
Ann Arbor Miller | MPR News
Students at Kennedy Elementary School speak more than a dozen different languages -- and some students speak very little, if any, English. "No matter what your language is, you can sit down at a drum and be fairly successful at improvising something," said Depaolis-Metz.
Ann Arbor Miller | MPR News

While many elementary schools offer choir or hand chimes as an extra music activity for students, Kennedy Elementary music teacher Justin Depaolis-Metz started a drum circle as a way to create community and build connections at his Fargo school.

Young drummers
Participation in the drum circle is voluntary. There is no sign-up sheet and attendance is not recorded. "The kids that come here really want to be here," said music teacher Depaolis-Metz. Third-grader Blake Wiemken (left) and second-grader Aloysius Dennis Jr. participated in some of the group's March sessions.
Ann Arbor Miller | MPR News

"In our drum circle everybody gets a voice," he said. "That's why we're here is to learn, to listen and to cooperate and to work together."

Focused on timing
Music teacher Justin Depaolis-Metz started offering the drum circle before classes began back in January. The activity is open to second- and third-graders, and usually draws at least two dozen students each time. Third-grader Ryan Dominguez (far left) and Blake Wiemken focused on their efforts during a session in early March while Rovella Charles watched.
Ann Arbor Miller | MPR News

The occasional offering — for which participation is voluntary and attendance is not recorded — is on hiatus for the summer.

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