One man’s trash is another musician’s percussion instrument

Street Stories

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The old buckets are empty of the plaster, salt and other items they held.

But the goals of the Rhode Island Bucket Drummers are filled with musical hope.

“It’s really great to teach what we love to do to other people,” drummer Derek Blackmar said. “It requires math with counting the beat. And music.”


Here’s how it happens.

As James Richards cracked his drumsticks on the marble of the Temple of Music in Roger Williams Park, a few young faces peered around a nearby column.

They were definitely interested in the two men banging on buckets.

Richards tapped his way to the steps, and on the grass in the distance, someone else is inching toward them.

“We live in very divided times right now,” Richards said.  “And music brings people together.  Breaks all barriers, whether it’s politics, race.”

Every so often, between the rapid sounds created by Richards and Blackmar, one or the other will shout out some drumming guidance to the other.

“Keep going,” Richards said. “Oh, yeah.”

The kids inched closer to the drummers who met when they were about 7 years old as they were taking music lessons from the same teacher.

“Lets go faster,” they chanted together.

With interest, there’s an invitation. 

“Anyone want to give it a shot?” Richards said. “Want to come up and play with us?”

With that, an impromptu drum circle formed with a few of young strangers borrowing some sticks.

“We start with something simple,” Blackmar said. “Then, we’ll move onto the next thing.”

He tells the young drummers to “copy what James does.”

“You got it,” they said. “One, two, one, two. Faster, faster.”

By now the students are smiling.

“And the best part is seeing what they got,” Blackmar said. “Let them just go crazy on it.” 

“Good job,” Richards said as they wrapped up the set.

What the young drummers don’t realize is they’re learning more than just how to make music by beating a bucket, or tapping on an old tin pan.

“It’s a good physical activity,” Blackmar said. “You’re using math. You have to count when you play music.” 

Email Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com with you story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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