Building off the talents of staff and the interests of members, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond creates programs with social and emotional learning in mind. Managing emotions, goal-setting, establishing positive relationships, showing empathy and good decision-making are some of the skillsets developed which prepare our young people to take on the world.
The “Beat It” program at the Northside Club is achieving that and more.
When Cory Jones, a program instructor at Northside, began last fall’s planning, he was searching for a program that would really engage members while building social and emotional skills. He had heard about bucket drumming programs and really liked the idea, especially since he himself had played the drums for 13 years.
He knew that drumming builds a variety of social and emotional skills. As a collaborative experience, young people contribute to the group as a whole, giving them a sense of purpose and pride. To hear the beat requires active listening. To keep the rhythm requires nonverbal communication, control and cooperation.
This program could work, he thought.
In September when programming began, Cory set out chairs, blue buckets and drumsticks. Nine members walked in the room. He began by teaching them the basics – how to hold sticks, how to play rhythms and how to read music.
“In the creation of the program, I wanted to make sure that every member learned the basic principles of drumming,” Cory said. “The original plan was to teach each member basic rudiments which are fundamental rhythmic patterns. I wanted to make sure that each member got an opportunity to express themselves, but also learn to listen to each other.”
“I feel more confident because as I get better, I can be a better leader.”
By the end of the first week, Cory had already seen some growth; it was obvious there was a lot of potential within the group.
“When Mr. Cory first handed me drumsticks, I thought, ‘What am I going to do with this?’” said Nataylor, one of the drummers. “On the first day I left early, but on that Friday, I felt like I knew what I was doing and I liked it a lot.”
Two weeks later, Nataylor, at just nine years old, created the group’s first beat.
“It made me feel pretty good,” she said, quick to add that her teammates contributed to the creation of the entire beat. “Now that we’ve learned and we’ve gotten better, I feel good about drumming. I feel more confident because as I get better, I can be a better leader.”
Not everyone understood the lessons right away, but the group continued to work hard and practice. And with each new challenge, Cory noticed that they would become increasingly engaged.
“Many of the members began asking if they could take their sticks home so that they could practice. At this point, I knew that this was becoming something that they took seriously,” Cory said. “Each day, they would be so excited to get to practice so they could show me all of the things they had worked on.”
Cory was impressed by their efforts musically, but he was also impressed with what he was seeing within the group.
“There were some members who were more advanced in their skillset,” Cory said. “Rather than highlight themselves, they helped teach the other members and made sure that everyone was on the same page. When we struggled as a unit, everyone grew closer, everyone worked together and refused to leave anyone behind.”
That’s when Cory knew that this group was ready for a performance. The newly-named Get Buckets aka the Lil Drummers took the stage and took off. They were the musical guests at the Southside Club’s Winter Wonderland celebration. They opened up the Changing the Odds: Virginia Youth Development Conference in front of 150 adults from organizations around Richmond. They were invited to open the Youth Matter Showcase as part of Richmond’s Youth Violence Prevention Week in March.
The program became so popular at Northside that another section was added. There is now a novice class and an advanced class led by Get Buckets.
“I did not expect for the program to take off as it did,” Cory said smiling. “My first class had nine members and because of them, we had to add a second class of 13 members. We still have a lot more in our Club who consistently ask me if they can join.”
The group has received tremendous support from Club staff, parents and community members. They continually get invited to showcases and events around Richmond. And, with each arising performance, and there are many on the calendar, Cory has seen their excitement and confidence grow.
“New opportunities and the willingness to become the best is what lifted the program,” Cory said.
Having an interactive, hands-on program which keeps the attention of young people is at the core of social and emotional learning. The program has kept its momentum because of Cory, with his enthusiasm for drumming and his bonds with the group.
“He encouraged me a lot to make me want to start a career in drumming. So, for Christmas, he got me my own pair of drumsticks,” Nataylor said.
Just six months ago, members like Nataylor had never held drumsticks. Today, they can spin their sticks, do double paradiddles, create their own beats, perform in front of crowds and jam with local bands with confidence.
“I believe that music is a form of expression. With this program, every member received an opportunity to be heard. Members learned how to become leaders, work together, listen and play as a unit,” Cory said. “The unique part of this program is that we took nine members of different age groups with different personalities and interests and got them to play as a collective unit. Members were able to form positive and healthy relationships that have grown even outside of the program.”
Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond gives young people the opportunity to develop new talents, build lifelong bonds and find their own unique sound. With your support, we are able to provide, high-quality programs and creative learning opportunities to our members. Learn more about ways to support our work.