If you hear students slapping their thighs, thumping their chest, snapping their fingers, or drumming on a tabletop, you will know they are in practice mode for the techniques and routines taught by Academy music director and specialist Dr. Owen Duggan. “Dr. D” as the little guys know him, is using a popular new method called body percussion to ensure that, as the George Gershwin song “I Got Rhythm” goes, they’ve ‘got rhythm.’
It’s widely known that the earlier you start with any physical skills, the quicker you learn, and the greater chance it sticks as you get older. The same concept is applied in music for learning how to keep time, drum, and move to melodies. And grooving to the music is exactly what the boys in Pre-k through 5th grade get to experience each week when Dr. D stops by to teach the “Got Rhythm” lesson.
Adjusted in difficulty for each grade-level, the Got Rhythm lesson plan includes three main components:
Body Percussion - Seated or standing, students lightly tap knees, thighs, chest, tummies, and arms; stamp their foot on the floor; and in some cases, strike a drum, table, or tambourine in a specific sequence while keeping a steady beat. This activity develops muscle memory and the ability to keep time in a wide variety of music including both pop and classical.
Rock Drumming - Seated, the students mimic the motions of a drum-set drummer following music with a steady beat including, rock, jazz, blues, and Latin. Each arm and leg “learns” to act independently. Once the basic movements are mastered, the students will have the ability to play a real drum set, to which they will eventually have access.
Music Notation - Students at all levels are exposed to note reading and writing including simple time signatures, note values, and rests.
So, the next time you hear your son body-thumping or table-top drumming, please remember not to shout: “Cut that racket out!” With the new understanding it’s his acquired skill, perhaps a simple, “Let’s try and do that a little more quietly” will most likely suffice. You may be surprised to learn that your child has indeed “got rhythm”!
Owen Duggan is a teacher, conductor, performer, and composer. Learn more about Dr. Duggan’s background.