Music can inspire happiness and healing. It can connect and create community. It can serve as a creative outlet and a catharsis.
And, in some cases, it can do all of the above and more.
Laughter and singing accented the beating of the drums on a recent summer afternoon as more than 60 music teachers from across the state and nation gathered in the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus.
The University of Iowa has 187 graduates teaching music in Iowa’s schools from Benton to Worth counties and many in between. Learn more about Music Education at the UI.
The teachers, who ranged from those working with preschoolers and K-12 to college students, were participating in a World Music Drumming Workshop, hosted by the UI College of Education, School of Music, and West Music.
“This training provided music teachers with ways to engage their learners in active music-making with meaningful and valuable objectives that relate both to music making and living as cooperative citizens,” says Mary Cohen, a UI associate professor of music education.
The World Music Drumming curriculum, developed by Will Schmid, focuses on using drums and other percussion instruments to help students engage in music. The curriculum includes lessons on using the Tubano drum, a classroom-friendly drum that emulates many Afro-Cuban drums.
The facilitators teach creative music-making techniques and foster a strong sense of teamwork, Cohen says. This is the first time the workshops, which are offered nationally, were brought to Iowa.
Cohen adds that it is rewarding to see these teachers return to their respective schools to share what they have learned with students by incorporating new techniques and tools into their curricula.
Kristin Anderson, a UI College of Education alumna who received a Master of Arts degree in educational psychology in 2009, enjoyed beating on a vibrant orange, black, and green Tubano drum.
As a music teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School, Anderson says she constantly looks for new ways to make learning music fun.
“The instructors were so knowledgeable and patient with us, and had so many great ideas for us to bring back to our schools and communities,” Anderson says. “World Music Drumming is something I had never done before, so I feel like I learned a great deal and my confidence and own drumming technique has improved.”
Anderson adds that she and Mount Vernon Washington Elementary School music teacher Kristi Keast, another UI College of Education alumna who obtained her Master of Arts in music education in 1996, are starting an after-school drumming club for older elementary and middle school students.
“I really look forward to bringing this whole style of teaching and performing back to my school,” Anderson says.
Cohen, who researches choral singing and wellbeing, says that the drumming club is a great example of the long-term impact of the workshop.
“Music teachers have the potential to make positive changes in the schools’ climates, empowering students through strength-based learning and providing fun ways to build tools and character that will enhance all of our lives,” Cohen says. “Each teacher will bring the skills they learn into the classroom in his or her own creative way.”