James Curran Middle School
Be Sharp - Making a Difference
What do Master Nigerian drummer Francis Awe, traditional Yoruban dancer Omowale Orisayomi, and renowned mariachi musician Juan Morales share in common? A passion for music!
Teacher Richard J. Rodriguez, one of our Be Sharp mini-grant recipients with the James Curran Middle School, in the Bakersfield School District, turned a modest amount of funding into an exciting cultural experience the kids are still talking about. Whether they took part in the drumming, the dancing or the mariachi musical arrangements, they experienced not only a different musical culture, they worked with several of the best artists in these cultures, all within a public school environment.
The project and successful workshops generated more than the expected success in reaching parents, students, and teachers. As a result of some great media exposure many more people in the community shared in the experience. The local Hispanic newspaper, El Popular, shared the experience in a front-page news article.
Francis Awe and Omowale Orisayomi worked as a team teaching the Curran African drumming ensemble for several hours. Drawing on selections learned from their West African traditions in Nigeria, they then led the students in a captivating performance that included traditional dance movements taught by Ms. Orisayomi.
In his workshop, Mr. Morales focused on musical selections students performed at the Fresno Mariachi Festival workshop. The kids had a good time, while learning from experienced professional musicians. They also promoted sales of the CD donated by the California Music Project, and Curran raised enough money to send the school percussion section leader to summer percussion camp, hire a drum instructor for several band workshops this coming school year, and helped defray additional expenses. Clearly this is a case of a little going a long way.