School-based Drumming Empowerment Programs


YWDEP provides Drumming Empowerment programs in a variety of local schools. These workshops prove what many people innately know – that drumming is more than just creating beats. Drumming is a fully cooperative team-building activity. Not only does it teach students a brand new skill, but also gives them a creative outlet, helps them build skills in listening and cooperation, and helps to manage anger and depression. It can build self-esteem as well, when delivered through empowerment-style facilitation and instruction.

In a drumming empowerment workshop, students first will participate in team-building games that emphasize rhythm and cooperation, then will learn the origins and basic hand positions for hand drums (with a concentration on the African djembe). Following this, students will learn a traditional African polyrhythm – one rhythm made up of several different patterns. They will learn how to listen to one another and play different patterns at the same time. After achieving this task, they will build their own rhythm together by adding in one person at a time while listening to a steady pulse. Through this, they may discover the importance of listening constantly and maintaining a tempo. When they are successful, they’ll be encouraged to add or change their rhythms, speed them up or slow them down, and even facilitate the entire group if they so choose. With enough time, each student will have the opportunity to build his or her own rhythm by starting a beat, and facilitating the group dynamics.

In addition, if so desired, the students will have the opportunity to write rhythmic stanzas of spoken word on a subject they care about – read them aloud – and then read them aloud accompanied by the beat of the drums. The students will also have the opportunity to flow or freestyle their own rhymes in a structured group setting.


Drumming Empowerment Programs can felx to a variety of school needs:

A. Single workshop
This will encompass pieces of all the above – a drumming empowerment intensive, basically. If the workshop is an hour or less, certain aspects of the template will be removed. Suggested time allotment for the above is 1-1.5 hours.

B. Week-long workshop series
This option – which would consist of drumming workshops after or during school for 5 days in a row – gives students a much more developed version of the template. We will spend the equivalent of an entire workshop on each piece: learning hand drumming technique, learning a rhythm, building a rhythm, facilitating the group, and adding in poetry, freestyle and flow to the rhythm. Each day would open up with a new team-building exercise. If so desired, other local artists could be brought in as guests to give the students more perspectives.

C. Full Program
This option could consist of meeting once a week after school for anywhere from 6-14 weeks, or meeting everyday after school for 2-4 weeks. In this situation, the group would have an ultimate goal that they would decide; do they want to perform for the school? Perform at another venue? Use their performance as an opportunity to benefit their community in some way? If desired, the group could have exposure to several different instructors who specialize in drumming, spoken word, performance, and even song writing. They would work with these instructors to build their own collection of original material, and then have the opportunity to build and structure their own performance set list to be used in achieving their ultimate goal. Another option would be to focus the entire program on drumming and percussion, resulting in students learning and performing 2-3 West African rhythms as well as creating 1 or 2 of their own.

The ideal number of students for a Drumming Empowerment Program is anywhere between 6 and 15.

YWDEP has hosted drumming empowerment programs in the following schools (in DC and MD):

  • A. Mario Loiderman Middle School
  • Browne Junior High School
  • The Bullis School
  • Capitol City Charter School
  • Capitol Hill Day School
  • Cardozo High School
  • Center City Public Charter Schools
  • Cesar Chavez Public Charter School
  • COEUS International School
  • Hart Middle School
  • Imagine HOPE Charter School
  • Jewish Primary Day School
  • Kipp DC
  • Levine School of Music
  • Little Folks School
  • MEI Futures Academy Public Charter School
  • National Cathedral School
  • National Presbyterian School
  • Paul Public Charter School
  • Piney Branch Elementary School
  • Rayner Browne Elementary School
  • Roberto Climente Middle School
  • Rock Creek Valley Elementary School
  • Sheridan School
  • Strathmore Elementary School
  • Takoma Education Center
  • Takoma Park Elementary School
  • Takoma Park Middle School
  • Tench Tilghman Middle School
  • Thurgood Marshall Academy
  • Wilson High School

» To schedule a Drumming Empowerment Program at your school, click here.