August 6, 2012

Saturday I taught my Fundamental Djembe SOLOS class, and began the class by demonstrating the three essential hand drum sounds (bass, tone, and slap). Most of the participants had less than one year of drumming experience, so we spent significant time practicing. After about ten minutes, one of the people in the circle said, “Can you please show me how to do this?”

I paused. We had been practicing technique for quite a while, and I thought I had shown and described the content several different ways. I wondered if I had heard his question accurately. Then he said, “I’m blind. I cannot see your hands. Can you show me how to do this?” So I went over and asked how to help.

He asked me to put his hand in the shape and place it was supposed to go. I slowly placed his hand and fingers on the drum, slowly moved his hand up and down, on and off the drum, and talked to him about the areas of the hand that make contact, and where the sound comes from. His question brought everyone’s focus to the precise details of micro muscle placement. He was calm as we proceeded. Several people got out of their chairs and came over and sat on the carpet so they could watch what we were doing. Everyone copied the slow motion demonstration on their drums. It became the best demonstration of technique I have ever been able to provide. When he succeeded in making tones and slaps, everyone cheered.Note to Self: Because I slowed down and patiently helped him with his question, everyone benefited. We all paid more attention to the micro muscles involved in the techniques, and we all connected in the teaching moment and learning process. I never would have planned to spend fifteen minutes teaching three notes, but it ended up being the most valuable section of the class. I feel like I am the one who learned the most. I learned from his calm, strong, patient request, the way he accepted the help, and the reminder, “The slower you go, the faster you learn.”

The lessons continue…