Kids come to this summer camp to learn about drumming and dancing. But as many quickly find out, the drums take hold of a child’s attention like few things can.
“They’re a hook and they’re powerful,” said Yorel Lashley, who runs the Drum Power Drum and Dance Camp, which wrapped up last week at UW-Madison.
Lashley, who also runs short programs at schools and other sites during the year, says the autonomy of the three-week camp allows him to create a culture that emphasizes youth development “in a very serious way.”
It’s based on three pillars: discipline, community and leadership.
“I love that because not that many other places do we talk about that,” said Aylani Guadalupe-Taylor-Benell, who will be a sixth-grader at O’Keeffe Middle School. “You can’t live life just thinking you can do whatever you want.”
Support from UW
The camp, which finished with a presentation for parents, teaches all campers both drumming and dancing in a number of traditions. Students choose which discipline they want to emphasize.
The campers range in age from first-graders to high schoolers, although occasionally younger children attend.
Lashley, founder and president of Drum Power of Madison, rents space at UW-Madison to run the camp, which has support from the School of Music and percussion department.
African-American with two children who are biracial, Lashley also tries to attract a culturally and demographically diverse camp. The camp accommodates youth with special needs, and scholarships are offered based on need. One camper said the offer of financial help was the incentive he and his sister needed to attend camp despite some obstacles.
The diverse teachers are professional practitioners, and the campers learn a variety of drumming and dancing styles such as West African, Capoeira, hip hop, Samba drum, Afro-Peruvian dance and modern dance.
Tziah McNair, who will be a ninth-grader at La Follette High School, said this was her first year at camp, which she said she liked because it incorporated many kinds of dances and life skills.
“You’re not just learning new (dance) skills; you’re building new character,” she said.
‘It’s real physical’
Theodore Xistris, who will be a seventh-grader at O’Keeffe Middle School, has been attending the Drum Power camp since he was in second grade.
It’s not like classes he’s had before, “where the teacher talks a lot or a teacher does a demonstration and then you do it,” he said. “It’s by no means unstructured …. It’s real physical.”
Lucy Good, who will be a third-grader at Emerson Elementary School, said she has gone to the camp for two years because one of her moms does African drumming and thought she should attend the camp to learn other kinds of drumming and dancing.
Kareem Jackson, who will be a fifth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School, said this is his first year at camp, where he learned other types of dances beyond the hip hop he already does with friends.
“It’s super fun, and I get to make new friends every year,” said Jill Neal, who will be in third grade at Randall Elementary and has attended the camp for four years.
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