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Linda Mah
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Parkwood-Upjohn Drums Have the Beat

Choir Performed at Cooper Glen Music Festival

Kids are always banging, tapping, popping.

Music teacher Jennifer Boyer noticed that almost 20 years ago, and about 16 years ago she took that nervous energy and made it part of her work with students.

Boyer, who taught at Woodward Elementary for 13 year and has been at Parkwood-Upjohn for eight years, runs a drum choir for her students.

“I’m not really a drummer,” Boyer said. “You wouldn’t want to hire me for a gig.”

But when she was working on her master’s degree, she spent a month in Africa studying drumming. She said she realized that those chronic tappers, bangers and poppers would benefit from having someplace that allowed them to make noise without fear of getting in trouble.

Her drum choir consists of 60-65 fourth and fifth graders. There is no audition process. Children apply for the group and are chosen by lottery — and there is always a long waiting list of children who want to bang on the drums all day. They meet once a week for 20 minutes during recess — and sometimes after school if there are special performances coming up.

The drum choir performed Feb. 4 at the Radisson Plaza Hotel as part of the Cooper’s Glen Music Festival, which is sponsored by the Great Lakes Acoustic Music Association (GLAMA).

“We had a big group last year, many kids from the drum choir plus many parents and grandparents in attendance,” said Mark Sahlgren, with GLAMA. “We were thrilled at how well it was received, and it was one more beautiful experience for those wonderful children and all who attended.”

The drum choir performed carnival music from Guinea West Africa, pop music from the British rock band Queen, and traditional American folk music by Woody Guthrie. The choir was joined by Cori Beth Somers, executive director of the Kalamazoo Bach Festival and a violinist with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and the band The Red Sea Pedestrians, and singer/songwriter Steve Barber.

In addition to the drum choir, Parkwood-Upjohn was represented by the school orchestra under the direction of teacher Benjamin Gudbrandson.

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