Big House Youth Jam – Educational Drumming Program

Youth JamBefore The Big House even opened its doors, it was already reaching out to economically disadvantaged children in the Macon, Georgia community with a music education program.

Experienced musicians provide free hand drumming instruction to third through fifth graders in an after school program for at-risk public schools. Originally inspired by the successful Chicago program, Rock for Kids Youth Jam, The Big House celebrates Macon’s own rich musical heritage by sharing the joy of rhythm with our youth.

The Big House Youth Jam-Educational Drumming Program has been highly successful, with each year adding new students and schools. The program began in fall 2009 with one school and today The Big House has served five at-risk public schools and was recently involved in a city-wide Summer Camp serving homeless and displaced children. For the Big House Preview Party, the Brookdale Roaring Panthers had the honor and distinction of being the first act to perform on The Big House Stage at The Charles H Jones Pavilion, opening up for Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band. Most recently the Morgan Mustangs and the Burdell-Hunt Wildcats were honored to perform for the 16th Annual Pan African Festival opening ceremonies.

Drumming together as a team promotes a sense of camaraderie and school pride. Performance opportunities during and at the end of sessions provide a goal for our children to celebrate their achievements. They exceed not only our, but their own, expectations.

“Through the drumming classes, the Big House Foundation has provided an alternative and fun way for our children to learn mathematics principles, leadership, teamwork and musical expression. The students also have had the opportunity to work and bond with professional musicians who are positive role models. This experience has been tremendously valuable to the students.”

– Bibb County Public Schools After School Program Office

Music Director: Wes Stephens

Instructor Wes Stephens

Music Director Wes Stephens is an accomplished percussionist with extensive experience working with children. He is among the first dozen professionals and educators in the Southeast to graduate as a Therapeutic Drumming Instructor, certified by Youth Villages-Inner Harbour. The year-long training process focuses on traditional West African djembe music, providing structure for at-risk children, and dealing with a wide variety of behavioral and emotional situations.

Music Instructor: Detroit Flowers

Instructor Detroit Flowers

Working with children is nothing new for Music Instructor Detroit Flowers. Detroit has many years’ experience working with students in various afterschool programs. Detroit also is well known in the middle Georgia area for his work with Cancer Survivors as a Drum Circle Instructor. Detroit has a love for music and has been playing percussion and saxophone since the 8th grade.

“Our program is skill based, focusing primarily on traditional West African rhythms. We also introduce more contemporary rhythms and activities, games, storytelling to facilitate learning and promote self-expression and creativity. The three main tenets are 1) Respect, 2) Teamwork and 3) Listening. We provide a fun, yet structured atmosphere, relying first on the students’ strengths, their joy of playing a drum,  learning a new skill and their ability to share with others. We applaud the process of their successes. With this positive approach students are more receptive to learning skills such as building self-confidence, developing self-control, dealing with authority, and how to communicate with their peers and adults. “

-Big House Youth Jam Music Director Wes Stephens
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October 2015

 Q: What do you like best about music?

 A:  -The songs

      – The sounds

      – The meaning

      – The beat

      – The drums

      – Everything

First day of Fall, 2015 class, Brookdale Elementary

Pre-class survey, Welcome, Check-in, Intro to drums ( types of, materials, origins, posture, bass/tone strokes, relax, don’t forget to breathe!), Warm up (Buse’- djembe 1), The Call, Kuku- djembe 1 and DJ 2 ( “Rock Strong”- new concept), Brookdale clap/Buse’ unison break, 5-minute bell exercise (new concept), Kuku DJ1/DJ2 together, WOW. Dunun demo (teaser for next time). Rock till you drop and don’t forget to breathe! Where did the hour go? Brookdale Roaring Panthers Rock!

The Big House Foundation Youth Jam, Educational Drumming Program. Sharing the Joy of Rhythm.

Quotes from students (grades 3-5) on the first day of class, 2015.
Sharing the Joy of Rhythm:

Q: What do you like best about music?
A: The words and beat
The sound
It is fun
It is loud
It is just cool

Q: Do you think music is important? Is it important in your life? Why?
A: It calms me down
It explains me
It is just beautiful

The Big House Foundation Youth Jam-Educational Drumming Program

Students Speak

What is your favorite thing about Big House Youth Jam?

  • Respect
  • All the sound and rhythm
  • Playing instruments and singing songs
  • You learn stuff
What did you learn?

  • A lot of respect and self control
  • To share and be respectful
  • How to respect and play other instruments
If you were going to tell another student about the music class and why they should or shouldn’t join, what would you tell them?

  • You should be there because it’s fun.
  • You should join us cause you learn a lot there.