COMANCHE, Okla. (TNN) - A local elementary school music teacher taught his students to play the African drums in February to celebrate Black History Month.
Walk into Jack Francis’ classroom at Comanche Elementary School, and you’ll see and hear fourth grade students banging on African drums or Djembes with excitement.
For 11 years, he’s taught his students the history behind the instrument and how to play it.
“We can’t take this away from the kids,” he said. “They learn a different culture, the history about it. Not only American music, but African music or Middle East music, but it’s all music and like I tell them, music can stay with you forever.”
He said through music, he’s teaching the kids these life lessons about respect, responsibility and discipline.
“You gotta respect each other’s instruments and you gotta be responsible to learn your part and then teamwork,” he said. “We all play as a team. There is no ‘I.’ We play together.”
In the fall semester, students learn to play the recorder, and in the spring, the Djembe.
Through funding from the Oklahoma Arts Council, the school is able to purchase instruments for classes.
“They keep doing all these budget cuts and defunding stuff, taking arts away starting with budget cuts with elementary, and here at Comanche, we didn’t want to do that to the kids,” he said.
He starts by asking the kids what their favorite genre of music is and then teaches them to listen for the same beats in African music.
He said learning to play in sync together requires patience and understanding.
For Francis, the best part is seeing the students master that with one another.
“It’s the best thing,” he said, “especially the world we’re living in right now, trying to divide everybody up. If all the kids come together and learn history about everything, this would be a better place to live.”
Mr. Francis’ entire fourth grade class will perform a concert in the spring to showcase the instruments they’ve learned this year.