The World Music Drumming Pilot Project

In the spring of 1996 we began an eighteen-month pilot project primarily funded by REMO, Inc. which addressed the following goals:

  • Bring the excitement of world music and drumming to middle school (and grades 3-5,  9-12) curriculums
  • Teach African and Latin-American culture
  • Build important work and community skills:
  • communication and listening
  • cooperative teamwork
  • respect for others
  • To accomplish these goals, the project set out to:
    • Develop a 30-lesson curriculum for middle school general music classes that works in:
      • 6- or 9-week units (wheel)
      • 9- to 18-week A/B day structures
    • Establish strong connections with other subjects
    • Use the excitement and motivation of drumming from Africa and the Caribbean
    • Engage students through an active, hands-on approach


Pilot Project Phases I & II

In the first twelve months, five middle school teachers from the Milwaukee Public Schools worked with me to develop the thirty-lesson curriculum. All of these schools had at least a fifty-percent minority student population.  The teachers were: Ijoister Harris, Athene Kralik, Audrey Murphy, Michael Saindon, and James Wilson.

During the fall and spring semesters of that school year, the team of teachers, project assistant Sheila Feay-Shaw, and I met weekly to work out and edit the first draft of the thirty-lesson curriculum. At these weekly meetings team teachers reported back on what worked and what didn’t. In addition, visits were made to the schools to observe classes, and teachers made video tapes of their teaching.

That spring, special stakeholder sessions were held with school administrators, parents, teachers of other subjects in the schools, and school support staff such as guidance counselors, curriculum specialists, and assistant principals (discipline). These stakeholder sessions shared the goals and objectives of the project, involved those individuals in actual drumming experiences from the curriculum, and solicited their comments on how World Music Drumming fit into the needs of the children’s lives as well as the needs of the school community. Work with stakeholders benefited from the advice and counsel of Michael George, Executive Director of the Wisconsin School Music Association. More information on this important subject is given on pages 92-93.

In the summer of 1997, fifteen additional pilot teachers and schools were chosen from throughout the United States and Canada (listed on page 7). Every attempt was made to pick schools with different socio-economic profiles including inner city, suburban, mid-size city and small city/rural. These fifteen new teachers plus the five original Milwaukee teachers attended a week-long training workshop at Conference Point, on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin taught by Ghanaian master drummer, Sowah Mensah and myself. The World Music Drumming workshops, offered each summer provide participants with the tools and skills for teaching World Music Drumming in their classrooms. See page 95 for more information on future workshops.

Throughout the fall, all twenty pilot teachers taught the curriculum to one or more classes providing feedback in the form of teaching logs, videos, and e-mail. Significant changes were made in the thirty lessons on the basis of their suggestions — to the extent that what is presented in this package is thoroughly teacher-tested and student-tested. 

Principals, parents, and other stakeholders in the pilot schools also provided valuable feedback regarding the impact of World Music Drumming on their lives and school communities. Some of their comments are included in the following section and in other parts of this book.