Now in its third year partnering with Urban Gateways for the Cultural Education Program (CEP), Carson Elementary School is working alongside teaching artists John Knecht and Jason Wolf to immerse its students in “Global Rhythms,” the theme for this year.
Serving a mostly Hispanic community on the city’s Southwest Side, Carson is committed to promoting artistic and cultural understanding as part of students’ academic curriculum, making it an ideal CEP partner school. The program focuses on collaboration between Urban Gateways teaching artists, school art specialists, and classroom teachers, linking fine arts to other subject areas like language arts and social studies.
Jason Wolf and John Knecht, members of the world drumming instructors collective Pulse Beat Music, are teaching international drumming in six Carson classrooms. Wolf instructed the first several sessions in each classroom, focusing on Brazilian and West African rhythms. Students practiced samba rhythms, a major part of the Carnival celebration in Brazil, where drumming ensembles or “samba schools” practice all year to impress festival crowds. Wolf also taught West African rhythms like the celebratory Kuku from Guinea, frequently heard at weddings and birthday parties. Knecht will join Wolf for the rest of the year, and the two plan to teach the Carson students rhythms from the Middle East, Indonesia, Europe, Japan, Hawaii, and more.
Carson students also had the opportunity to attend the Urban Gateways “Global Rhythms” November matinee show. This performance featured Pulse Beat Music, body percussion ensemble Be the Groove, and the flamenco dancers of Ensemble Español. Experiencing international rhythms through exciting professional performances as well as through classroom learning affords students a more complete understanding of and appreciation for cross-cultural music and dance.