Mombo encourages a student to “talk to me” using his hands on a djembe drum Wednesday. The Pilot/Scott Graves
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
Eight energetic and squirmy third graders scurried to the front of the room and sat down in front of eight conga drums, eager for a chance to play.
After a few minutes of drumming up a storm, the eight students returned to their seats, and another eight took their place. Then another, and another.
The students were participating in a hands-on percussion workshop Wednesday afternoon at Kalmiopsis Elementary School. The demonstration was led by Mombo Hernandez, a self-taught, professional percussionist with more than 40 years of experience.
The workshop was sponsored by Stagelights Musical Arts Community and part of the nonprofit’s ongoing “Music in the Classroom” program.
“We enjoy going to the classrooms to do this,” Hernandez said. “It gets (students) excited about music.”
A few K-School third graders also had a chance to play individually with Hernandez, who asked each one to “talk to me” using their hands on the drum. When students started to play, after listening to the beat and rhythm, Hernandez accompanied them.
Before students played the congas, Hernandez showed them what a rain stick, African bass, ostrich egg, ocean drum and water phone sound like.
At the end of the workshop, students asked questions: “How do you drum so fast?” (Practice.), “How much do (the drums) cost?” ($200, $300, $500.) and “Where do you get all these drums?” (Everywhere, all over the world.)
Many third-graders enjoyed the workshop.
“It was really good. I liked how he played the drum so fast,” Breanna Stevenson said.
Jordan Cristee enjoyed playing the drums, and Ashanti Franks liked all the sounds.
Hernandez, who lives in Del Norte County, has brought his music to different schools for about 25 years. He plays for elementary and middle school students. He never has a set program; he always goes with the flow.
“The whole thing is, exciting the kids about something,” Hernandez said. “I bring in something that kids have probably never experienced before.”
He always uses a hands-on approach.
“Kids don’t want to sit there and be lectured on an instrument,” Hernandez said. “They want to experience it.”
Hernandez has been playing hand drums for more than 40 years. He used to tour all over the United States, but after moving to the Crescent City area six years ago, he stopped touring quite as often.
“This is what really fills the void: being able to come into the school and do percussion demos,” he said.
Hernandez enjoyed coming to K-School.
“It was great,” he said. “The kids were good listeners. They were very receptive. These kids were pretty open to just about anything.”
Dean of Students David Lee was impressed with the workshop.
“He was phenomenal,” Lee said. “I love how he did all the hands-on stuff. (He) was amazing.”
Lee said the school is working to expose students to as many different types of music and professionals as possible.
“That’s our goal,” he said. “To have a lot more hands-on music and professionals come in lieu of having a music program.”
The school eliminated its music program last year because of budget cuts. Stagelights Musical Arts Community stepped in this year by starting a recorder class for fourth graders and bringing local and touring musicians into the classroom to perform and talk with students.
See videos of Mombo and the students drumming on Youtube: