BSM Choir Begins Using Drums


Matthew Ormsby

The BSM choir’s authentic West African drums sit in the corner of the choir room, waiting to be used.

Ava Krueger, Editor

Each year, each class curriculum remains largely the same––engineering builds robots, band plays instruments, ceramics makes bowls. However, COVID-19 has forced one class to make a dramatic change to its lesson plan. This year, all junior and senior high choir classes have stepped away from singing and are now mainly focused on drums and very small ensembles. 

Due to social distancing guidelines, it’s impossible to teach a full class of singing students, even with the new plexiglass shields that have been installed in the choir room. Choir teacher Mr. Ryan Werdon explained that having students sing as an ensemble this year wouldn’t be a viable option. “If you’re actually gonna be singing, the Minnesota Department of Health recommends 12 plus feet and face masks…if there is going to be singing, it’s only gonna be four to five people max,” Werdon said.

Despite the awkwardness that may come with singing in such a small group, Werdon believes there will be both pros and cons. On the down side, a tiny group of singing students doesn’t really give the illusion of a full choir ensemble; however, with such small groups, students will be able to receive more personalized attention and guidance. “You actually are gonna grow way more when you’re accountable and no one else is…I think it’s gonna make the people who are singing way stronger at doing what we do; there’s nowhere to hide,” Werdon said.

Instead of spending each class singing, the choir classes will be focused on something entirely new: drums. “We’re gonna be doing the world music drumming curriculum for this semester, which is all learning about the cultures and traditions behind drumming and working up some ensembles. It’s based on the drumming and traditions of the countries of Western Africa, but we will also branch out into Latin America and the Caribbean as well,” Werdon said. 

Although this class will have a much different curriculum than the typical choir class, it will still be teaching the main values and lessons that come with being a part of an ensemble, no matter the instrument. “Any ensemble of music is teamwork, community, trust, and enjoyment of music…Hopefully we’ll be able to sing again soon, but in the meantime I think we’re still going to have a lot of fun and be able to jam and make music,” Werdon said.

BSM purchased the drums for choir classes from the West African Music Director at Macalester College, who travels to Ghana every year to pick up uniquely handmade drums. “We’re very lucky because they come with history and the culture behind them,” Werdon said.

Despite these strange times, choir continues to be a valuable class for students. “Going into this, I kind of had to go back to being a student, too…we’re all being flexible this year, and it’s a good lesson to test us to see how we can adapt and how we can find new ways to make music,” Werdon said.