Hawaii Youth Symphony adds bucket drumming to its programming!
Learn more about our newest program and hear from instructor Chris Cabrera!
Bucket drumming is an incredibly fun and accessible way to introduce kids to music and percussion. By using simple everyday items like buckets and sticks, students can explore rhythm and create their own music in a fun and engaging way. With bucket drumming, kids can explore the building blocks of music and learn coordination, timing, rhythm, melody, dynamics, and even improvisation!
“The kids get pretty jazzed,” instructor Christopher Cabrera says. In his class, they play along to popular songs, learn new rhythms by following along, and are even challenged to create their own beats.
Chris Cabrera is an accomplished percussionist and educator, who serves as Associate Principal Timpanist and Section Percussionist with the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra and General Manager of Chamber Music Hawaiʻi among other roles in the Oʻahu music community.
Chris brought the buckets to our Music4Kids general music class at the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaiʻi’s Spalding Clubhouse in early 2023. In addition to Music4Kids, he also piloted an after-school bucket drumming class at Pālolo Elementary School!
Why Focus on After-School Music Classes?
Our new after-school bucket drumming program, the Pālolo Percussion Ensemble, is in many ways an extension of our Music in the Clubhouse programs- the goal of which is to bring awesome music teachers and instruments to after-school programs across the islands, and close opportunity gaps. Educational researchers believe that after school programs help students to perform better in school. While some of our other programs meet over the weekends, there’s something special about the after-school space as an opportunity for learning.
Percussion teacher Chris Cabrera has taught in Hawaiʻi public schools, at after-school programs, and also in private lessons. He says that after-school programs stand out to him because the students are excited to be there: “In the classroom in the middle of the day, it can be really tough to keep students engaged. After school, kids tend to be more interested since it’s more laid back.”
After school, students often have a few choices as to what activities are available to them. At Hawaii Youth Symphony, we just want to make sure music is one of them! When students are given the opportunity to explore their passions in a fun setting, it really sets them up for success.
Why Bucket Drumming is the Perfect Introduction to Music Class for Kids
Since it’s not overly technical, bucket drumming is the perfect way to start off a music class and get kids excited to continue learning more about music. “It’s pretty intuitive, so it doesn’t take much for them to learn,” Chris explains. “Bucket drumming is a universal entry point where you can get a lot done. And if they are interested in it, they can really explore other instruments down the road.”
Unlike other popular starting instruments, like violin and recorder, the equipment is one-size-fits-all and easy to share, sanitize, transport and maintain. In the Pālolo Percussion Ensemble, new students join the class all the time, and some will join some weeks but not others. The flexibility of the buckets allow us to accommodate any child who is interested in learning!
Chris Cabrera is also able to use teaching styles that focus on fun, avoid frustration, empower students to have a voice in their own learning, and leave room for creativity.
“It’s a call and response way of teaching that’s a lot easier than teaching a lot of other instruments, which can be pretty labor-intensive,” he said, “unless they’re really into music, it’s not going to keep their attention.”
Have you Heard of a Bucket Drum-off?
The percussion ensemble is a space where students can explore music at their own pace. “We have a really great core group of kids at Pālolo that are really serious about it, and it’s been so cool to see them bringing other kids, getting them excited, and helping each other learn,” Chris said. The pace of learning and the energy level is infectious. The students bring their own ideas to class, and Chris is happy to help them explore them. One student-led initiative has become a staple part of the class: bucket drum-offs!
“The kids asked to do a competition, so we started doing bucket drum-offs, which was all their idea! It’s fun as a more creative activity where I don’t tell them what to do and they have the space to experiment and see what they can come up with,” Chris explains.
During bucket drum-offs, the class is divided into two teams, and each team works collaboratively to come up with a rhythm to rival the other teams’ beat, which they then present for the whole class. So fun!