The Bob Bloom Workshop at PASIC 2006
A Review by Eric Stuer
right, from left to right: Bob Bloom, STU at Rhythmweb, and music
therapist Bill Matney at Bob's November 12 2006 workshop]
Sunday, the day after the close of PASIC 2006, we
went back to the now quiet Austin Convention Center to attend the
Bob Bloom Drum circle facilitation workshop. Bob
is one of the pioneers, about whom we'd read and heard for over
a dozen years. We were looking forward to seeing just what he does
and how he does it.
Mr. Bloom has a great deal of practical experience, as it turns
out, and to our delight, his workshop centered on the practical,
as opposed to the theoretical. He was friendly, down to Earth, and
completely willing to share it all, from marketing and selling to
design and presentation techniques. Alas, we did run short of time.
We would have liked to see a longer workshop, and he could easily
have filled one with content, but we only had the afternoon. Still,
we touched on a lot, in the time allowed.
Rather than the circle format, we were purposely using auditorium
style seating, similar to so many elementary school presentations.
Our class size was about 25-30; he had us role play as 200 third
graders while he did his normal 3rd grader school presentation.
Then we went back and talked about just what was done (and why),
at various points along the way.
We all had fun with it. As soon as we heard we'd be role playing
3rd graders, one distinguished looking gentleman in the front row
raised his hand immediately and asked timidly, "Can I go to
the bathroom?" [LOL]
Bob stressed the importance of building language learning and other
disciplines into one's presentation, using official state educational
standards as guides. His deceptively simple presentation was designed
to be a sort of 'stealth teaching', if you will. I never actually
heard him refer to himself as a 'drum circle facilitator'; rather,
he describes his role as that of a 'teaching artist'. He embeds
multidisciplinary learning into the set as he goes along.
At one point, for example, he had embedded history facts and mnemonic
learning techniques in the segue between songs by saying:
"Whenever I have trouble remembering a name, I find a rhythm
for it, like, oh, let's do: [in rhythm] John F. Kennedy, John F.
Kennedy, Thirty-fifth President..", etc.
Once he had us 'kids' saying it, he switched us to clapping it,
and off we went on his new song, Baba's 'Ara Me Le', using that
rhythm as the basis for it. His whole program was extremely well
thought out in this manner..The presentation was essentially song
based, and designed to get every kid in the auditorium up to play
drums in front of his or her peers by the end of the set. tres cool..
Bob has had the honor and good fortune to have served for years
as a faculty assistant to Master Babatunde Olatunji at the Omega
Institute for his "Language of the Drums" courses, and
so Baba's influence was keenly felt throughout Bob's presentation,
with several of his songs and frequent reference to Gun go pa and
other things Baba has said and stressed:
"If you can say it, you can play it."
The whole workshop was very inclusive. At various points teachers
and music therapists in the group brought up various points and
explained the workings of their profession as related to the matters
at hand. I got quite a bit of immediately useful stuff and it was
wonderful to meet Bob Bloom and the other participants..
All in all, was an excellent investment of $55.00, and a perfect
and fitting end to a very good conference. Sincere thanks to Bob
Bloom and to the Percussive Arts Society for having him.
Eric Stuer, Nov 14 2006
[for a review of the rest of PASIC 2006, click
I find that I am playing around with names more, since attending
the Bob Bloom workshop, and I find myself working with Baba's name.
Try this experiment.
Rhythm Experiment: Come up with rhythmic phrases
that fit together based on baba's name:
Use any combination
of the above, with any numner of repetitions and omissions
for artistic license.
You can use any part
once, more times, or not at all..Layer them on top of each
other and sequence them in different sequences for rhythmic
variety. sometimes say em, sometimes play em, sometimes both..have
one person go
(baba, baba, olatunji)
and another perhaps
(tunji, baba olatunji. ola)
All kinds of interesting
variations are possible, yet it's all thematically related,
because it's based on few words. It works with many an interesting
name or food. try it.
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