Local Youth Bring Rhythm and Dance to Nicollet
Youth from the Heart and Soul Drum Academy will present a showcase of West African-style drum and dance Thursday, August 16 at the Nicollet Theater in the Round in front of the Minneapolis Central Library, from 4:30 to 5:30p.
Training youth to use their hands, ears, eyes, and feet creatively and in harmony with others is the beat of Heart and Soul Drum Academy, located in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The educational non-profit, founded by master percussionist “Baba” Jesse Buckner, began as one man’s vision to encourage young boys to use their hands to create polyrhythmic beats rather than to use their fists on Rondo neighborhood streets.
Successes began small but have spread beyond the Rondo neighborhood to communities across the Twin Cities, growing the organization and its mission. “We are building bridges across communities,” Baba Jesse said. “We connect youth with the Art of Drumming to cultivate personal development, discipline, leadership, teamwork, and respect for self and others. These attributes then transfer into classrooms, the community, and the world.
“The decision to limit or eliminate the arts programs in schools has significantly stunted the overall growth of our young people in terms of helping them to become well-rounded individuals,” he continued. “The lesson of how to work well with others and build a team effort outside the home used to come through arts and humanities programs in schools. I desire to bring back that concept to our inner-city youth. Djembe Drumming is a great art form, it is good exercise, and it is communal.”
Baba Jesse learned the art of djembe drumming from Baba Nmindle Mandla and has taught the philosophy of polyrhythms to youth ages 3-17 for nearly 20 years. He has added a health and wellness component in collaboration with urban farm initiatives, exposing youth to healthy eating options to help reduce diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. He has also incorporated the practices of griots (traditional West African troubadours or traveling historian-poets) to encourage youth to learn their ancestral history as a way to honor family, respect values, and motivate their personal development.
Academy students are given opportunities as youth leaders during drum and dance lessons and in community-group sessions, guided by qualified adults to foster age-appropriate leadership skills. The leaders are recognized during performances, which helps to build their confidence.
Annually, youth leaders compose, coordinate and direct performances at local venues such as Twin Cities Heart Walk (Target Field), Aquatennial (Stone Arch Bridge), Super Bowl 52 Host Committee (Nicollet Mall), UMOJA MN, Global Worship Minneapolis, Frogtown Farm, Rondo Days and various other community and neighborhood festivals, hosting crowds as large as 40,000 to as small as 40.
“They are learning real-world impact, recognizing how music is universal in soothing the heart and soul,” Baba Jesse concluded.