LCSD56 is part of Rhythm Nation

Drumming builds a community.




More photos at in "Breaking News"


From ancient times, drumming has carried messages and built communities. The action’s most recent convert is the Laurens County School District 56 faculty, which participated Aug. 14 in this team-building exercise.

Drum Cafe USA had been scheduled here earlier, but a weather make-up day cancelled a professional development activity. Last Wednesday morning was the District 56 Opening Convocation, and Drum Cafe - an organizations that’s been keeping the beat for about 20 years - made its Clinton debut.

The organization says, “It’s all about communication, bonding and team building -- creating a more vibrant culture within the school district to kick off the school year.

“You can have 50 people from 50 different countries who speak 50 different languages ... but they can all work in unison very quickly ... Rhythm is within all of us as a basic universal language that everyone understands, and is a fundamental aspect of our human experience.”

Shannon Willow, of Drum Cafe USA, said the District 56 faculty was pretty typical of the people she has “taught” to unleash their inner drummer. It was an especially important time for District 56 - with more than 40 “newbies” (first-time LCD56 employees) the district is experiencing more turn-over this year than at any other time in its history. Clinton High School, especially - with a new principal and a new athletics director - is going through a significant transition.

Willow said the D56 faculty was typical because they - slowly - bought in to the program after initially looking skeptical.

“Most people think, ‘I can’t make music’ - then, they do,” said Willow, performing with two fellow drummers, a group that’s been working together 13 years now.

The program’s background: “The Drum Cafe was originally founded in 1996 in Johannesburg, South Africa. This interactive drum performance was used as a tool for bringing together the country’s diverse and divided post-Apartheid peoples, and was found to be very effective. It was found to be useful in a number of applications. Drum Cafe USA specializes in interactive experiences that level the playing fields, enable communication and inspire collaboration.”

Willow brought a personal experience to the D56 event, - her mom was a teacher.

“I know the kind of work it takes to be a teacher,” she said in a post-performance interview with The Chronicle. “It’s not just an hourly job. It’s a career and a passion that’s deep inside of people, to be able to give in that way. And its not easy to herd cats like that; students can be challenging, I know students have changed since my days in school.”

After the faculty in-service, the drummers spent some time with District 56 music directors. “Drumming is a very therapeutic tool that we can bring to our classrooms, that we can bring to our families, that we can bring to our companies,” Willow said. “It breaks down barriers. It increases inclusion. It motivates people and, really, it gets people thinking outside the box and   communicating in a different way.

“That’s the beautiful thing about it - making music together.” 

A musician all her life, Willow has been with Drum Cafe USA for 13 years. The US organization has been around for 16 years, coming from the group that started 20 years ago in South Africa. Almost anywhere in the world they go, there is a legacy of drumming - Native Americans on the North American Continent used drumming as communication, Africans built their communities around drumming.

Drum Cafe USA does all kinds of events. Willow said, “It 

helps you see your co-workers in a new light and really does break down barriers and develop a new type of trust with each other. We do corporate events - the largest one I have been involved with was 3,600 drums in Las Vegas. I have traveled to many different countries, had many different experiences. It’s the power to see how drumming brings people together and changes lives. And this can have a lasting effect, making music together is one thing, bar none that can affect people; it’s unexpected, first of all, the teachers walk in thinking ‘I can’t make music‘ and then they have this beautiful synergy together.

“It’s a beautiful experience for corporate, too; sometimes corporate is not as comfortable with something like this. It’s not something that they do - sitting together making music together. It’s a new way to se your co-worker. We all have that heart beat with us. We’re not really that far apart.”


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