Green River Star -

People Editor 

Students use beat buckets to make music


March 28, 2018

Star photo by Stephanie Thompson

Alexandria Callahan, on left and Kymani Reid, on right, work on staying on beat with teacher James Themig.

Tap, tap, tap, tap. This was the sound coming from one of Harrison Elementary School's rooms Thursday afternoon.

The students in music teacher James Themig's class were playing on beat buckets, which looked like they were made from old coffee cans.

"The coffee-can drums are called 'beat buckets,' which were introduced to me by Artie Almeida, who has published several music education books," Themig said.

Themig said Almeida led the elementary sessions at the Wyoming Music Educator's Conference this year in Evanston.

"Our school district is very supportive in letting us attend this conference every year, which is primarily where I learn the tricks of the trade," he said.

Since coffee generally doesn't come in tin cans anymore, Themig had to find something that did. He said the cans are actually from huge fruit and veggie cans from the lunch room. The lunch-room employees were kind enough not only to save the cans for Themig, but they cleaned them and everything.

On Thursday, the students were working on their drumstick techniques while exploring the different timbres of each instrument, including the bucket, the ridges on the side of the bucket, the beat board and the jingle bells, which were supposed to be tambourines.  "I am using jingle bells temporarily as I do not have enough tambourines at the moment," he said.

Experiencing music on a variety of instruments is something students should do.

Themig said clapping a rhythm is different from patting the rhythm.

"Similarly, transferring a rhythm to an instrument can be very difficult for elementary students. It feels different and sounds different," he said.

The students also worked on performing basic four-beat rhythms on these instruments. 

"Students love to play instruments. Through bucket drumming, students will remember how to use the drumsticks, which is important for anyone considering playing the drums," he said. "Reading rhythms is crucial to developing their familiarly with notes and how they function within music."

During the class, the students were encouraged to listen to the rhythm Themig played and then they were asked to replicate what they heard and play it together.

"This is where social skills are developed and enhanced," he said. "It's where students are working together to create something incredible."

As the students worked to create various rhythms, Themig came up with new ones for them to try. As the group improved the students started to smile.

"Students are making music together and enjoying it. This is the most important part of my job," he said.


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