Dancing Drum co-founder and director Steve Campbell created Dancing Drum in 2002 while he was working toward his teaching credentials in California.
Campbell experimented with the use of drumming to teach students about group cohesion and a greater sense of community.
He brought his program to the Mequon-Thiensville School District on Thursday, Sept. 29, at Range Line School. The event brought together students and parents from Donges Bay, Oriole Lane, and Wilson as a culmination of Dancing Drum's classes this week at each of the schools.
The program was so well-received in the early years that Campbell was able to translate it into a full-time business even after finishing his teaching degree.
“I never got a job in the classroom,” said Campbell, who calls New Orleans his home and base of operations while traveling around the country.
Dancing Drum offers programs not only for schools, but also for businesses and companies in the form of team-building exercises.
Dancing Drum first arrived in Mequon last year thanks to Donges Bay music teacher Mary Clark, who learned about Campbell's program at a music educator conference.
“I couldn't even see his show at the conference because of the popularity. It was standing-room only,” said Clark, who wrote a grant to bring the program to Donges Bay at the recommendation of other teachers at the conference. Last year's classes went so well that Clark wrote a subsequent grant this year for the entire school district to experience Dancing Drum.
Campbell led the Mequon-Thiensville students in his class known as “Drumming Up Character,” which teaches about respect, responsibility, and caring through song and rhythm. Thursday night's gathering served as an extension of lessons and to allow the parents to participate.
“We want the parents to experience what the kids have been learning during the week and to give the parents a chance to play,” said Campbell.
The night began with Campbell demonstrating his own drumming skills while introducing the various cadences and rhymes that would be used. He then brought up the students to play on the semi-circle of drums set up in the Range Line gymnasium. Parents and siblings were then rotated in to take turns drumming. Those who were not drumming were encouraged to play along with maracas and woodblocks. Many students and parents simply started dancing in the middle of the auditorium.
The hour-long performance ended with the students leaving Range Line with a mix of joy, exuberance, and for some, perspiration.
“It was so much fun to be included in the students' activities and to see everyone participating together,” said Stephanie Theirl of Thiensville, whose 8-year-old daughter Sayla attends Oriole Lane.
For Mary Clark, the response from parents has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Parents have been telling me that their children come home from school and are still reciting the rhymes from the classes,” said Clark.
Dancing Drum wrapped up its tour in Wisconsin with stops in Cottage Grove on Sept. 30 and Madison on Oct. 1. Campbell will continue to tour at schools and conferences throughout the school year and share the power and fun of the drum with people across the country.
“The most important thing I tell people about the drum is about its simplicity,” said Campbell. “Everyone can drum if they have fun with it.”