History

Dancing Drum aims to set a national standard for innovative, cross-curricular arts education programming. Our approach combines music education with standards-based learning extensions in a variety of subjects including visual art, dance, social studies, history, reading, language, geography, and character education. We utilize the power of music to inspire a spirit of learning that crosses over to the entire school day. All of our school programs are based on these ideals and adhere to national standards for education.

Dancing Drum's story began during the summer of 2002, when the Santa Barbara Zoo & Botanical Gardens invited our group to provide an interactive drumming experience for zoo attendees at the African Summer Safari. That summer, we drummed with thousands of visitors from around the world and saw how powerful the medium of drumming was for all ages and types of people. Regardless of language, previous musical experience, or age, everyone was able to participate and enjoy the experience of making music together.

For many years after that, we worked to build local partnerships in the Southern California area that would allow us to bring drumming to many schools from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo. Our main focus was to provide access to music education for schools that lacked even a part-time music teacher, which applied to most schools in the area at that time. From 2002 through about 2010, Dancing Drum was the only organized music education program that many South Coast students experienced at school. During this time, we developed many of the effective teaching tools and curriculum materials that we still utilize today in our school programs.

While in Santa Barbara, we enjoyed working with many different partners to bring music education to local schools, including the Children's Creative Project of the Santa Barbara County Office of Education, the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, the Hutton Foundation, the Karuna Foundation, Target Foundation, The Santa Barbara Symphony, The United Way of Santa Barbara County, Afterschool Opportunities for Kids (A-OK), Head Start, The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and many others. Dancing Drum's signature events in Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Drum Day and Santa Barbara Drum Day for Youth, were attended by hundreds of participants.

In addition to a full slate of in-school programming, Dancing Drum established the "Dancing Drum Rhythm & Art Center" in a studio on the east side of Santa Barbara, where we hosted many events like drum classes for adults and kids and hands-on clinic sessions that featured musicians including Luis Conte, Kevin Winard, Sese Ntem, and Dramane Kone. The center was also the home of our Summer Solstice Parade ensembles for many years, where we rehearsed with our drum corps and built costumes and floats for the annual parade up State Street.

In 2004, Dancing Drum began touring outside of California and visited several schools in the Midwest with our Interactive Drumming Assemblies. Every year since then, our tour schedule has grown to include states from Georgia to Wisconsin, Washington, and Arizona. 2004 also included Dancing Drum's first trip to West Africa to study the drumming and dance traditions of the region.

In 2005, we made another international trip, this time to study music and dance of the Garifuna people of Belize and the Maya of Guatemala.

In December 2006, Dancing Drum traveled to Thailand at the invitation of Tycoon Percussion. We spent 2 weeks working with the expert craftspeople at Tycoon's production facility in Bangkok to prototype the Dancing Drum Signature Series line of drums and accessories. The line includes a range of djembes, djun-djuns, ngomas, drum stands, and drum sticks made from sustainably harvested wood. Originally conceived as instruments for use in schools and instructional settings, the high quality of these instruments makes them suitable for professional and high-performance situations, as well. In our numerous visits to Southeast Asia since 2006, our time in Thailand has also included study of Thai drumming traditions.

In 2008, Dancing Drum wrote and published "Drumming Up Character". This program was originally developed during a United Way summer camp for at-risk youth, and it was so successful that we decided to write a book that would enable others to implement it as well. Since then, "Drumming Up Character" has been utilized in over 1000 schools in the US and Canada as a centerpiece or supplement for schoolwide character education programs. In 2009, the California Department of Education awarded "Drumming Up Character" approval for social content compliance, meaning that the book, CD and DVD "adhere to educational standards for portraying democratic values, cultural pluralism, and the diversity of our population".

In 2009, we published our second book, "Community Drum Ensemble" for middle school, junior high, high school, and adults. This performance-based ensemble program provides a fun, positive, and inclusive outlet for building a "drum team" during school, after school, or at other venues such as community centers, places of worship, drum shops, businesses, etc...Community Drum Ensemble (CDE) was developed during many years of leading performance-based drumming groups in Southern and Central California. In 2012, we released a revised edition of "Community Drum Ensemble" with improved music notation.

In 2010, we released "Drumming Up World Music: West Africa", which features 10 polyrhythmic arrangements for drums and xylophones, as well as an integrated arts and reading curriculum designed to inspire a spirit of adventure in students. DUWM-WA includes a Learning Levels system, which makes it easy for music teachers to tailor lessons for the ability of every class, grades K-8. This program covers music from 5 West African countries: Mali, Niger, Guinea, Senegal, and Burkina Faso. In 2012, we released a set of color illustration posters to complement the "Drumming Up World Music: West Africa" curriculum.

In 2011, Dancing Drum moved away from Santa Barbara to live in Indiana for a year. That summer, we released a 2nd Edition of "Drumming Up Character", complete with new and improved activities and resources. In fall 2011, we traveled to China at the invitation of Tycoon Percussion to present a series of Interactive Drumming Experiences at Music China in Shanghai.

In 2012, we relocated to our current hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana, where we continue to develop new projects and partnerships, in addition to immersing in the rich, local music scene and second line parade culture.

In 2013, we returned to Thailand to develop a new line of instruments called the BoomBa Series by IQ Plus. Made from sustainably harvested wood and environmentally friendly materials and finishes, this family of percussion instruments was designed to be used in conjunction with Dancing Drum's Rhythm Phonics method and elementary school curriculum programs. Color coded in red for the low tone "Boom" and blue for the high tone "Ba", these instruments provide a new approach for teaching and visualizing rhythm patterns in music education and music therapy settings. During this trip to Asia, we also traveled to China and South Korea for a clinic tour through music stores and schools.

In 2014, we debuted a new type of program called "School Drum Day." This hands-on, highly interactive program is for schools that prefer an experience where "every student gets to play a drum." Utilizing a drum circle set-up and 5-6 different types of percussion instruments, students rotate through the sections and learn how to play each one, while learning new music and building teamwork skills. 

In the summer of 2015, we were honored to present a new session titled "Teach to the Beat: Enliven Classroom Instruction through Rhythms & Chants" for the Turnaround Arts Summer Retreat, a program of the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities. This program was attended by an enthusiastic group of arts integration teachers from New York to Hawaii. Later that summer, we released our 4th title for music educators called "Listen to the Teamwork: Grade Level Rhythm Chants & Drum Breaks for Kindergarten through Sixth Grade". This activity book is designed to inspire grade level pride and quickly engage students in a successful experience with ensemble playing.

In the fall of 2015, we were fortunate to develop a new partnership with Louisiana A+ Schools, which has enabled us to bring Dancing Drum programs to several thousand students in underserved Louisiana schools, with the help of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts. These programs will continue through the winter of 2015, and hopefully beyond!

In early 2016, we plan to release a new integrated arts title for educators, called "The Rhythm is Here!" Stay tuned for news and updates.