Local musicians Larry Ford, his son, Brandon, and Doug Laughlin have teamed with Kira Blanketor of the Allen County Solid Waste Management District and Matt Jones of Allen County Partnership for Water Quality to present a series of workshops in area schools that focus on recycling.
With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day approaching Thursday, the Dumpster Drummers' message was especially timely during a performance this week at Croninger Elementary School.
“Reuse, reduce, recycle,” said Larry Ford. “We address the reuse aspect. Making instruments out of things that might have ended up in the landfill improves our ecology and helps kids develop an awareness of our environment.”Dumpster Drummers was born in 2009 when Ford met Jones and Blacketor, who wanted to add an element of entertainment to their school presentations.
“We realized we were all delivering a similar message,” said Blacketor. “We decided to join (forces) to create an environmental education/awareness program.”
“(It's) a three-pronged effort,” Ford said. “Kira educates children about recycling, Matt educates them about water quality and Dumpster Drummers entertain on everyday objects found around the house.”
“The program is very interactive and entertaining,” said Blacketor. “The goal is to make the kids aware of local recycling opportunities and to encourage them to participate because they can make a difference.”
“It's the small practices of everyday that add up,” said Jones.“Percussionists are scavengers,” Ford said, and the evidence is overwhelming.
On a recent day at Croninger Elementary School, the students were treated to a rhythmic feast played on coffee cups, skillets, pots, stainless steel mixing bowls, macaroni-and-cheese boxes, plastic jugs, a barbecue grill, ketchup and mustard containers, coffee cans, and large plastic tubs.
Clad in jeans, colored sneakers and navy work shirts emblazoned with their names, the Dumpster Drummers trio set up their treasures on and beside a pair of tables topped with red-checked table cloths.
Laughlin started the program, kneeling on the floor, drumsticks in hand, and began beating a rhythm on an orange-and-white traffic cone. As the drumming became louder and more frenzied, the children responded with shrieks of excitement. Trading the cones for condiment containers and a cardboard box, he challenged the students to discern the contents as he shook them in a steady rhythmic “sh sh sh sh.”
“Beans!” “Rocks!” “Stones!” they shouted in enthusiasm.
“And rice,” he prompted them.In addition to household items, the trio introduced the students to steel drums fashioned from oil barrels, demonstrating the varying pitches that occur when the drum is struck in different places. They also explored the variety of sounds each recycled object can make, interspersing rhythmic fragments with concert-style sound pieces.
“Our pieces are basically composed, but allow for improvisation,” Ford said. “We draw on Japanese Taiko drumming, Brazilian rhythms and Afro-Cuban traditions.”
Opportunities for student involvement also encourage improvisation.
“Kids love the program,” Ford said. “They're surprised at how good objects sound and blend together. We encourage them to ‘find' a sound ... by striking different areas.”
“The improvisational opportunities ... and interaction with the students keeps things fresh,” added Brandon Ford. “Kids respond differently every time.”
Meet the drummersMembers of the group are:
♦Larry Ford, frontman for the Larry Ford Trio, is a full-time, freelance percussionist and educator. Along with 50 private students, he is an artist-in-residence at two local fine-arts magnet schools, Memorial Park Middle and Weisser Park Elementary. Contact him at www.LarryFordMusic.com. You currently can hear the Larry Ford Trio on most Saturdays at Hall's Factory restaurant, 5811 Coldwater Road.
♦Brandon Ford followed in the footsteps of his father, Larry, earning degrees in percussion performance and music education while working as a freelance percussionist with a variety of local performers. Check out Brandon's performance schedule at www.BrandonFordMusic.com.
♦A drummer since age 14, Doug Laughlin has worked with local and regional bands and has opened for a diverse number of national acts, including Jars of Clay and the Oak Ridge Boys. He teaches at Sweetwater Academy of Music.