Drums, Piano, Buckets, Choir
Kids with sticks and buckets – what could go wrong?
Many, many things it turns out, but not because of the kids.
Getting the supplies, reserving a space, arranging for food, recruiting teachers, getting forms signed, and of course getting some kids, is a mountain of effort.
Especially if you also want to teach those kids African drumming, piano, art, and choir all in one week with a performance and reception at the end! Luckily, Amy Vanacore rocked it. So, kind of a false hook there, no train wrecks at this amazing camp.
I recently volunteered to take photographs of Amy Vanacore’s 1st annual Multicultural Music Camp at Lot Whitcomb Elementary School. With the unimaginable amount of things she (and the rest of the volunteers) had to do to make it all come together, I’m pretty sure I had the easiest job.
Though it wasn’t without some difficulty; turns out it’s really hard to take pictures of moving kids in a yellow cafeteria when you’re laughing so hard at their hand motions while singing “Best Day of My Life”, or crying to their obvious pride in successfully playing a piano duet.
If I did miss anything essential, I’m sure it was captured by the sea of cell phones and iPads from the audience of proud parents and relatives.
What is a Multicultural Music Camp?
The need for a camp like this was made the most evident when Amy asked the students early in the day,
“Do you know what a ‘reception’ is?” and one boy answered,
“It’s where you get Wi-Fi.”
Ah, the times we live in.
The camp catered to any child in 1st-6th grade interested in playing music from around the world. Free and reduced lunch options were made available to kids of low income families, and the camp ran from Monday through Friday.
Though the concert featured their performances of drumming, piano, and singing, the camp also incorporated fine art. Each student painted their own bucket drum, produced a large still life of exotic instruments, and I even saw some hand drawn, music-themed folder covers.
- Amy Vanacore – besides getting this whole camp together, Amy specializes in piano teaching and offers private lessons as well as working for Lot Whitcomb Elementary School. (Her website coming soon!)
- Nicaraguan singer/songwriter Clara Grun assisted in piano and taught the bucket drumming.
- Hakim Muhammad is formerly of The U-Krew, a Portland R&B/hip-hop group famous in the ’90s, and was a fast favorite with the kids. Being both ridiculously exuberant yet immediately in command of their attention, Hakim taught both Lamba and Kuku rhythms on African drums.
- Jesus Galvez was the art teacher for the camp. I only got to meet Jesus at the pre-camp meeting, but I saw his enthusiasm in planning for the inevitable mess that is a class of kids with paint.
- Dana Brown is the music teacher at Lot Whitcomb Elementary, and led the students in the choir. She was supposed to cut some of the songs if the kids didn’t end up being ready, but they sang them all – a testament to her and the students.
Songs included a traditional Jewish song, a South African song, a song sung in Spanish and English, and an American Author’s song (featured in Frozen) called “Best Day of My Life.” Because, America. (I’m lookin’ at you North, Central, and South America, don’t tell me it’s not in all your dance clubs)
All were accompanied by Amy at piano, Hakim at drums, and hilarious interpretive dance hand motions lead by Dana, who reminded me of my own beloved middle school band teacher in her clear love of play and kids.
Hakim let the parents know how proud they should be of the impressive performance given by the kids in so short of time. It is truly amazing how fast these kids picked up all these diverse genres.
Each student also got to go up and play their own solo or duet piano piece. Some had no piano experience; a couple had been training with Amy for over a year. The kids were nervous beforehand that they might mess up, but Amy consoled them,
“Try not to have a freak out moment; just move on and have fun.”
Of course they all did wonderfully, and each got to bow before and after their piece, even if it was only about 5 seconds. Made me glad I’d taken a few pictures before these whirling dervish performances!
All the kids clapped for each other, every time.
The reception that you might expect to have only toothpick treats ended up being a shindig of a spread. Iced lemonade, sandwiches, fruit and vegetable plates, hummus and pita bread cheese and crackers; and all decorated so perdily with donated flower arrangements on each table.
Amy was even sweet enough to bake homemade dark chocolate truffles for each of the volunteers, wrap them in cute wax paper and string, and hand them out to us at the concert. Cuz I’m sure she had so much extra time.
Needless to say, if anything didn’t go smoothly, only Amy knew about it. I’m amazed one person could put this all together, and actually succeed on the first try. The students had a great time; I heard the stories from the parents of how the kids brought their learning home with them.
The best part? The kids got to keep their bucket and drumsticks. You’re welcome, parents. :>)
Multicultural Music Camp Thanks You!
- Thanks to:
- Lake Oswego Ice Creamery for donating ice cream buckets,
- Rhythm Traders for donating 18 pairs of bona fide drumsticks, and
- New Seasons Market for helping out with food.
And big thanks to the following who donated their time, expertise, supplies, or funds to help this camp be a huge success!
Lisa Arakelian, Mitzi Bauer, Jena Beneloga, Janelle Bynum, Lois Costine, Mary Kogen, Jeanne Magmer, Linda Moraga, Jim & Cheryl Myers, Huy Nguyen, Dr. Shirish Patel, Christa Petrosino, Jackie Schmidt, Debi Stromberg, and Jan Walters.
Kudos Amy. Looking forward to next year’s Multicultural Music Camp!
photos by Chelsea Schuyler