Originally Published in The Nugget News

Sisters Elementary School fourth-grader Althea Trask plays a djembe. photo by Erin Borla

Sisters Elementary School fourth-grader Althea Trask plays a djembe. photo by Erin Borla

By: Erin Borla


Students at Sisters Elementary School learned new rhythms over the past two weeks with their African Drumming Artist in Residency.

Dale Largent from Bend spent the better part of the last two weeks working with music classes from Pre-K (through the SPRD Community Preschool), and kindergarten through 4th grade, all within the Sisters Elementary School and funded through the Studio to School grant from Sisters Folk Festival.

All kids received four lessons and participated in the all-school assembly (the preschool had two lessons).

Students learn hand-drumming on djembes. More importantly they learned ensemble skills and how to work in a team. They also each had the opportunity to explore several parts of music like dynamics and rests.

“It’s a chance to be a little loud,” said Largent. “And an entirely different experience for most of these kids – getting applause when you hit something.”

Working in a group, even if you struggle with the rhythm, there are so many people around you that can support your sound and help get you on track.

The Studio to School grant was awarded to and managed by Sisters Folk Festival. It is funded through the Oregon Community Foundation, Fred Fields Fund. This five-year grant, now in it’s third year in Sisters, is in play in 18 sites across the state of Oregon. The first three years of the grant awarded the Sisters Folk Festival organization $70,000 each. If they meet their goals they are awarded an additional $35,000 a year for the following two years; representing a total of $280,000 for arts programming in Sisters schools.

“All of the sites are doing K-8 music and arts education, but each has a slightly different focus and goals,” said Studio to Schools project lead Brad Tisdel. “All of these efforts are to identify the best practices in arts education from the state.”

Tisdel is also the creative director of Sisters Folk Festival, and manages their educational outreach programs.

“There is great programming at the high school and middle school. We see this grant as an opportunity to support existing programs and fill community needs,” he said. “We receive a ton of support through My Own Two Hands for both music and the visual arts. Grants like Studio to School can complement the work that is already being done within the school district with partners like SFF.”

“The biggest thing that stuck out with me while working with Dale is recognizing the kids that have a hard time engaging in everyday music are very excited,” says Shelly Hicks. “These kids are contributing to class, asking questions, in a way that they may not normally contribute.”

The residency culminated last Friday with an all-school assembly where all students in class or grade groups played two minutes of rhythm.

“All the students have been very caring and supportive of one another,” says Largent. “It’s really beautiful to watch the kids relate to one another. This school and community is really special.”