Jessica Warden
Staff Writer

The beat was on for the University of La Verne Kids Music Club at the “Drums of West Africa” concert, held in Founders Auditorium on Saturday, May 7.

This was just the latest production to feature the ULV West African Drum Ensemble.

With roughly 100 people in attendance, the interactive event gave the kids the opportunity to explore the power of live music and beat the heck out of something for a solid 45 minutes.

Michael Stallings, a music major at the University of La Verne, has been playing with the West African Drum Ensemble for three years now and says that the kids get a kick out of the performance.

“They get to bang on drums and what kid doesn’t bang on something at home,” Stallings said. “It’s like second nature for them,”

Under the direction of ULV instructor and ensemble founder Steven Biondo, children and parents were encouraged to take the stage and play with the drums.

The children, some only a few years old, surprisingly had no trouble following the beat.

“Drumming is something that just goes right to people’s souls,” Biondo said. “After hearing drums for a while you just get happy, especially kids.”

Biondo has been a percussionist for 36 years, but it wasn’t until 10 years ago that he began taking a deep interest in the African rhythms.

In addition to giving the kids some insight into the music-making process, the performance celebrated the traditional rhythms of West Africa, some dating as far back as the 12th century.

Today these rhythms have spread beyond the boarders of West Africa and can be found in several regions including Mali, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia and Senegal.

At the end of the concert, a raffle was held in which several of the children won CDs and DVDs of West African Drum Ensemble performances.

Overall, the kids seemed to really enjoy the show and parents agreed that the musical exposure allows their children to have fun and learn about other cultures through real life experiences.

“We want our children to be exposed to all kinds of different ethnic groups and experiences,” said Kris Whyte, a mother of two.

Whyte, who home schools her children, said programs like the ULV Kids Music Club are a real treasure because they are free to attend and great when you are a one working parent family.

All Kids Music Club events are free and anyone is welcome to attend.

The West African Drum Ensemble’s next performance is on May 16 at 8 p.m. in Founders Auditorium.

The Ensemble will be joined by musician and storyteller Asha’s Baba.

For more information, contact the ULV music department at (909) 593-3511, Ext. 4921.

Jessica Warden can be reached at jesselw@verizon.net.

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Posted May 13, 2005