Feature stories

They’ve got the beat

Drum line helps East Village students grow through music

In the big performance debut for the East Village Community School drum line, thJonathan FickiesIn the big performance debut for the East Village Community School drum line, the group leads a procession to Trinity Church to deliver food-drive contributions.

Young students at the East Village Community School carefully tap their snare, tenor and base drums, watching with rapt attention as their music teacher, Terry Campbell, models a drumbeat.

Their intense concentration and eagerness to try out new songs and exercises belies the fact that the drum line, made up of 10 4th- and 5th-graders, is brand new, with only seven practices under its belt.

Campbell makes sure his drummers stay in line en route to the church.Jonathan FickiesCampbell makes sure his drummers stay in line en route to the church.

Last year, soon after arriving at the school and learning how supportive it is of musical endeavors, Campbell created a clarinet ensemble. This year, when the principal approached him about forming a marching band, Campbell suggested a drum line would be a better fit. He started the group, which meets weekly, in mid-October.

James Preimesberger, a 4th-grade teacher and the UFT chapter leader, believes the drum line creates an environment where students can grow and explore through music. He says it “promotes agency and exploration” as well as “structure, discipline and focus” with the “payoff really direct and easy to see.”

While Campbell, who writes all of the drum exercises, teaches his students in a controlled manner, he also makes sure to be upbeat and include humor. He encourages their excitement and applauds their progress, while keeping the lesson focused and on schedule.

Parents and students march to Trinity Church.Jonathan FickiesParents and students march to Trinity Church. Music teacher Terry Campbell guides the students at a practice session.Jonathan FickiesMusic teacher Terry Campbell guides the students at a practice session.

The instruments are stacked in a “drum cake” before practice.Jonathan FickiesThe instruments are stacked in a “drum cake” before practice.

Each student plays a drum of a different size, pulled from a “drum cake” at the beginning of practice. Full-size drums would be too heavy for the young musicians, Campbell explained.

Preimesberger was surprised that quieter students auditioned and says they really benefit from the program. “Something was aching to get out,” he says, and the drum line provided the opportunity.

The drum line made its debut on Nov. 21 at the Harvest Festival, leading the rest of the school in a procession to Trinity Church to donate food-drive contributions from the school community.

“The kids felt like rock stars” performing for the first time in front of the school, Campbell said, and watching them was “one of the proudest moments that I’ve had.”

He believes the drum line is important to these students because “they have ownership — they’re part of something that’s bigger than themselves.”

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