By Sahara Lyon
On the first teacher workday of 2023, music teachers from elementary schools in Leon County, Calhoun County, as well as professors from Florida State University, gathered in the Gilchrist Elementary School cafeteria in order to learn some drumming techniques and games from Steve Turner and Paisley Brandstatter of Giving Tree Music. This was Steve’s second time hosting what he calls a Teacher’s Playshop for educators in Tallahassee. Thanks to a partnership grant with Duke Energy, COCA was able to bring Steve back to the state’s capital to teach some drumming games, collaboration, and a day full of fun.
The morning started with an overview of some terms that Steve uses in his pedagogy. These terms reoccurred throughout the day and gave insight into the exercises that Steve had planned. Next, we did some introduction exercises to make everyone comfortable, while simultaneously starting to take teachers out of their comfort zones. I was in a particularly interesting position, as I have little to no musical background whatsoever, aside from the middle school orchestra lessons that have since left my brain. That being said, despite my lack of technical ability, I was welcomed with open arms to the drum circle by participants and instructor alike. The exercises took me way out of my comfort zone, but after the first few I was getting the hang of it and having a great time.
The teachers fell naturally into a rhythm, creating impressive, improvised music with drums, bells, shakers, and a variety of other percussion instruments. Sharon Tacot, music teacher at Kate Sullivan Elementary School, stated, “it was wonderful to connect with other musicians and teachers to create a drum circle.” Collaboration and teamwork were at the core of Steve’s instructions for the day, as well as in the drumming games and techniques he taught the teachers. Steve stated, “our job at Giving Tree Music is to provide the tools and techniques teachers need.”
In addition to collaboration, drumming games and activities for teachers to bring back to the classroom were the main takeaways from the workshop. Steve taught teachers call and response games, how to sculpt songs within a drum circle, different ways to engage students, and so much more. Sharon stated, “[the workshop] was a great way to energize my teaching with new drumming techniques and games to use in my classroom. My students are benefiting from the new techniques I learned in the workshop.” Giving Tree hosts workshops for a variety of different groups, people, and organizations, but the music teachers brought their own unique experiences and expertise to the drum circle, making the day fun and informative.
When asked about the importance of art education, Steve stated, “it’s hard growing up today. Kids are pulled in many different directions and are told who and what they should become. Music and art are a chance for kids to express themselves and explore who they really are. It’s a way to tell their story safely.” Art education provides students with a creative outlet in which they can discover a number of things about themselves and the world around them, and organizations like Giving Tree, through their dedication to teachers and students, help make that discovery possible. Sharon further affirmed the importance of Giving Tree Music and the value of the Teacher’s Playshop. She said, “the drumming workshop with Giving Tree Music was so much fun. Drumming is especially beneficial for some of my struggling students.” Teaching drumming techniques is valuable for a plethora of reasons, as reflected in the responses of the teachers who participated.
COCA was so glad to be able to host Steve, Paisley, and Giving Tree for a second time thanks to our partnership with Duke Energy. The Duke Energy partnership also makes COCA’s Arts Education Grant possible. Sharon, a recipient of one of the grants, said, “I look forward to adding some new drums to my classroom with the Grant I received from COCA” exhibiting the importance and benefits of providing teachers with the resources that they need.
Look for the article on the Tallahassee Democrat, coming soon.