SEASIDE - Innovative Seaside teacher Jeremy Hirsch works hard to find ways to foster harmony among his middle school students.
And what better way than to have youngsters at Broadway Middle School savor a drumming workshop from some of the world's best?
Members of Maya Soleil brought their powerful sound to Broadway Thursday afternoon as part of a series of school and community performances. The group, which features musicians from Africa, Asia, Jamaica and the United States, appears at the River Theater in a community performance 8 p.m. tonight and workshop Saturday.
Hirsch, whose assignments include fine arts, humanities and social studies, invited all his students to attend. His sixth-graders cruise through a fine arts curriculum, rotating every 13 weeks through classes that include drama, introduction to art, and the world music/drumming sessions.
All of the students who took the workshop either are in his world music/drumming class, or will be during the school year. "In that sense it was a teaser for what we will do," Hirsch said. "For the students currently with me, it supported the things we work on."
Maya Soleil didn't disappoint.
"The students who were in the workshop really seemed to be engaged," said Hirsch. "There were probably about 10 or so who didn't want to leave the room - and the drums - for a good 10 minutes after school had gotten out, which is saying something because at this level many kids will drop everything and run when the bell rings!"
Maya Soleil features traditional African music and dance with electric Afro-World fusion. A mix of African vocals and dance blends with western contemporary dance music and jazz. Members have performed throughout the world and recorded many African classics, including music from Nigeria, the Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe. One performer, Naby Camara from Guinea, has won Canadian Juno ("Grammy") awards twice.
The link with Maya Soleil came about with an assist from Nancy Montgomery at the River Theater. She knew Hirsch had the drumming class at Broadway and put him in contact with the international group, which appeared in Astoria in 2002 and 2003.
With support from Broadway Principal Sheila Roley, Hirsch sought help to pay the tab. The Cannon Beach Arts Association made a donation which smoothed the way.
The visit delighted Hirsch.
"In my class, we focus less on culturally specific rhythms, and more on listening to others and keeping rhythm as a group," he said. "This way, the students don't get frustrated that they 'can't play it.' It's my goal that they all have a chance to experience being part of a musical ensemble, even if it's a purely percussive one."