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Students drum to the beat in orientation

By Glenda Isaacs Burgeson

First-year students at CSB and SJU got to tap into their inner child on Aug. 23, led by renowned drummer Jim Donovan. As they took their seats in the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater at SJU for an orientation session on Fine Arts Programming, they found placed at each seat one of a variety of noisemakers: drum sticks, clackers, whackers, drums, bells and cymbals.

The students needed no instruction. They went to work, filling the hall with random percussive rhythms until Donovan took the stage to a thunderous vibration.

A founding member of the multi-platinum band Rusted Root, Donovan shares the power of rhythm across the country in educational drumming programs at universities, festivals, schools, corporations and specialty venues. He is a full-time instructor of music at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pa., the current director of the Saint Francis University World Drumming Ensemble and the director of Summer Rhythm Renewal Drumming Retreat.

In a few, short exercises Donovan demonstrated to the students the impact they have on others.

The goal of the session, he said, was to see how well they could play one thing together. Donovan assigned simple rhythmic percussion patterns and a vocal call-and-response to each half of the hall. They practiced a bit to get the hang of it. Then, after some needling, Donovan challenged everyone to give their best effort. The result was a wall-rattling, clattering cascade of sound waves.

Donovan summarized the lesson of the day: "You have an immense amount of power, and how you affect people around you affects who you are and who we are as a group."