MARTINSVILLE–They couldn’t just pick up the drumstick. Before starting to drum, the students at Albert Harris Elementary School had to learn the basics. On Tuesday, the Boys and Girls Club of the Blue Ridge brought Sheron White to their after-school program, helping students from kindergarten all the way through fifth grade practice drumming.

White, who runs the fitness program known as Drums Alive, taught kids several skills including movement, rhythm and patience. Equipped with drumsticks, students played the “drums,” which were exercise balls, to beats as directed by White.

Held in the elementary school’s cafeteria, 33 kids listened with anticipation as White spoke about the program.

“Drums Alive is a fitness program,” White said. “It is a program for kids, adults or anybody who just wants to have fun, socialize, heal your mind and heal your body.”

Kids couldn’t start playing immediately. Just like any instrument, learning the basics took a little time.

“It’s not like you can just stand up and start doing it,” White said.

Before allowing the kindergarteners through fifth graders to pick up their drumstick, White explained the long, narrow object’s purpose and how to properly use it – and it wasn’t for rough play.

“These sticks are made of wood,” White said. “They will break. They will hurt if you hit someone accidentally.”

White asked students to pick up a drumstick and let it slide around in their hands in order to get a feel for the object. Flexibility was a key component to proper drumming, she said.

White also explained the parts of the drumstick, including the base, the shaft and the tip. She instructed students to hold the sticks at the base and to clap them together in a crisscross pattern along the shaft to make a sound.

“We do not drum with the tip because the tip will break if we do,” White said.

Utilizing the drumsticks, she taught students to keep rhythm with their non-dominant hand and to move their dominant hand around to vary the beats. The group also used chairs as drums, hitting the legs to make a different sound.

“We’re going to be going up in the air,” White said. “We’re going to be going down on the floor.”

Sometimes while drumming, a drumstick would fall or a ball would roll off of a chair on which it was stationed. White encouraged the children not to worry about mishaps; rather, pick up the fallen object and keep playing.

“If your ball falls, you just get it, put it back and keep going,” White said.

Also, White told the children that not everyone could drum at once, and that was okay.

“You’re all going to have a turn to touch these balls and you’re all going to have a turn to be drumming on them,” White said, which the children repeated. “You’re all going to get a turn.”

When Hairsan Hairston’s turn came up, she couldn’t wait to get started.

“I like playing on the balls and I like the beats,” Hairston said.

White taught children both single and double beats, which they utilized both with and without accompaniment.

“Sometimes the music disappears, but we start making music of our own,” White said.

Naikeem Penn said he enjoyed “going really fast,” but noted “it was hard to keep the ball on the chair.”

Kassidy Dodson thoroughly enjoyed her time playing with the exercise balls, her first drumming experience.

“It feels like a stress reliever,” Dodson said.

Whether beating out frustrations or simply having fun, Myra Moore, club director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Blue Ridge, and Bethann James, local Boys and Girls Club director, felt Drums Alive was a good program for their kids.

“It’s all about non-traditional rhythmic movement,” James said.

Amie Knowles reports for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at amie.pickeral@martinsvillebulletin.com

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