Highlands School students learn while jamming out on drums

By Brian O’Shea, Plateau Daily News

Elementary and Middle School students at Highlands School learned about West African culture when they were paid a visit by Music Educator Fonziba Koster, a teacher and performer of jembe hand drums on Feb. 24.

Highlands School music teacher Joi Chapman (left) drummed right along with the students and Fonziba.

Before Koster’s visit, students watched a documentary video about the time she lived with a traditional family of drummers in Africa.

As part of her class/culture workshop she exhibits traditional implements used in daily life in an African village including household items, and cooking and decorative items which the students are encouraged to interact with.

Fonziba Koster taught Highlands School students K-8 the basics of African drumming in the music room using her 30 drums.

“They get to see what life is like in a poor African home with no plumbing or electricity, cooking on a fire, sleeping on mats on the ground,” said Koster. “I hope this gives kids an appreciation for an entirely different culture and way of life and experience the power of drumming in a group.”

Students in the classes took turns spending time with Koster learning about repetition, using different tempos, and at times were instructed to cut loose and play what came naturally.

Students learned how to elicit different sounds from the drums and drum a “round” of rhythms.

Highlands School Music and Drama Teacher Joi Chapman joined in and said the students enjoyed her visit.

Drumming as a group is not only for kids, Koster said, “There are a number of benefits to anyone who gives it a try.”

She said drumming can help relieve stress, frustration, and pent-up energy, stimulate creativity and self-expression, build teamwork and a sense of community, and enhance coherent brain wave patterns for a greater sense of wellbeing.

Highlands students working on their drumming skills listening to drumming teacher Fonziba Koster.

She has taught musical workshops for over 25 years and for the past three weeks has taught in several schools in Macon and Jackson counties, worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters and given a class/culture workshop at the Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library.

Grades k-8 learned the basics of African drums on Feb. 24.

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