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Jackson School drums up character

Posted: May 11, 2017 4:23 p.m.
Updated: May 12, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Steve Campbell (far right) leads 5th Graders at Jackson School in a percussion exercise on April 28. Campbell, of New Orleans, brought his Dancing Drum “Drumming Up Character” program to Jackson along with dozens of six different types of instruments. Each grade, including pre-K students, spent an hour with Campbell learning songs about respect, citizenship, fairness and responsibility.

The drums banged, the maracas shook, the vibraphones rang and dozens of 5th Grade voices sang out to the rhythm about respect.

Wearing a black cap and headphone mic, Steve Campbell led the students at Jackson School in learning songs not only about respect, but citizenship, responsibility and fairness. It was all part of a day-long appearance at Jackson for Campbell on April 28. He spent an hour with each grade, including pre-K students, teaching them to tap, slap and shake six different instruments while also teaching them about good character.

Campbell came to Jackson from New Orleans, where he co-owns Dancing Drum with partner Lindsay Rust. The musical enterprise launched in 2002 and for the last 15 years its mission has, according to its website, been to “educate, entertain and inspire people of all ages through interactive, percussion-based programs.” Campbell and Rust -- sometimes together, sometimes separately -- travel all over the country.

For Jackson, Campbell -- who was invited to Jackson by music teacher Terdell Mealing -- used one of Dancing Drum’s programs called “Drumming Up Character.” It combines ensemble drumming, some dancing and character-related rap songs to help inspire students to become better people.

“It’s a powerful example of teamwork in action through drumming,” Campbell said. “They get to experience -- to feel -- the power of drum rhythms. It’s also testing time right now, so it lets them let off steam and it’s unifying.”

Campbell said he hopes the program not only taught them the different character traits the songs touched on, but the difference between electronic interactions and actually connecting with other people.

“I’m really thankful to be able to do this,” he said.

Mealing was able to bring Campbell to Jackson thanks to the school’s Distinguished Arts Program Grant offered by the S.C. Department of Education. Camden High School was the first Kershaw County school to receive the grant, in 2014.

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