Beginning of the Beat: Children learn about global rhythms in Rutledge Rec Department's Summer Fusion Camp
By Kathryn Schiliro
Photos by Angelina Bellebuono
Seated on the stage in downtown Rutledge in the midday heat, slightly sweaty, fully costumed children formed a circle and began pounding on their homemade drums. Allowed to keep any beat they wished, the drumming circle marked the culmination of the fourth day of "Summer Fusion," a percussion camp sponsored by the Rutledge Recreation Department and led by Eva Young, a yoga instructor at the local Back to Wellness Clinic.
Though they spent a large part of the week in groups learning about upbeats and downbeats from different parts of the globe, most were attentive to the group's cadence; they were, after all, promised shaved ices from The Caboose at the end of the day.
The world came to Rutledge last week in the form of local children, and a whole lot of rhythm.
Drum-ing Up Students
Young led a well-attended art and drama camp for Rutledge's younger residents last summer. After its success, Young planned for a music camp, which ended up evolving into something more specific.
"Cortini and I started talking about how cool it would be to move into rhythms," Young said.
And last week's Summer Fusion camp was born, bringing in about 30 local children between 5 and 12 years old.
Young didn't have a big budget for publicizing the event, so she spread the word through flyers, e-mails and phone calls. Given last year's success, the word-of-mouth about the camp happened on its own.
"I didn't turn anyone away," Young said.
The Beat Goes On, and On, and On
Summer Fusion students spent the week learning about the music, especially the rhythms, from Africa, India, Spain, Cuba and Brazil, and ended up dividing into groups representative of those global locations.
"I let them choose," Young said. "They heard the rhythms, and picked a country they were interested in."
In their groups, students painted hand-drawn backdrops, created by camp instructor Arlene Pryor; costumed themselves, with Pryor's help, in location-specific garb made from donated material; and bedecked themselves in accessories (which, in some cases, doubled as props or secondary instruments, i.e. jingling bracelets made of bells and pipe-cleaners) with the help of camp instructors Nancy Tuttle and Ansley Brackin. And, as far as music, students created and decorated their own drums from gourds, donated by The Sunflower Farm, and learned the music and rhythms of their respective continent or countries from Young and guitarist Cortini, who also played accompaniment for each group's performance. Young taught each of the groups a dance to go with their music.
Lily Courchaine, 9, was excited about the supplemental instruments her group made.
"We learned dances and beats, and made costumes. And we made clackers!" Courchaine said.
Cameron Reid, 10, enjoyed creating his drum, but found his favorite part of Summer Fusion to be his costume. He enjoyed his costume so much, he coordinated his brother's ensemble to reflect what he already created for himself.
"Look! He's a mini-me!" Reid yelled, across the playground.
A guitarist, Cortini spent the week teaching Summer Fusion students about the time signatures and rhythms.
"I am most proud of their timing," Cortini said. "All of the kids have shown great timing, even at a fast tempo. I can tell they practiced."
Not only did Summer Fusion provide campers with knowledge of world music, but the camp also helped students gain self-confidence, something Pryor watched happen throughout the course of the week.
"Some were reluctant at first," Pryor said. "Then they got very enthusiastic about it. It was nice to draw them out."
And when it came to costumes, students didn't hesitate to express themselves.
"There was a mad dash for fabrics," Pryor said. "They were very self-modifying, making costumes on the fly."
In an effort to help students get to know the other members of their group, Tuttle and Brackin got students involved through games. Their efforts didn't always prove fruitful, but the students were entertained.
"Some like swinging, some like making bracelets, some like hanging with Cortini," Tuttle said. "They all have different personalities."
"I think we all give the kids a lot of freedom," Young said.
Through rhythms, Summer Fusion brought the global community to the children of Rutledge. And, through those same rhythms, the camp reinforced a sense of community (evident by the children and adults gathered before the stage on the city's downtown square Friday night to watch students perform in the camp's finale performance, the Summer Fusion Concert) in the "Small But Special" city.
"Personally, I love that some of these kids I live near but was not really connected with," Young said. "Now I know them better...I mean, the Brazil team lives three doors down."