On September 5th, NextGen members, guests and families paid a visit to Bush Mango Drum and Dance to learn about their programs, and even got to try their “hand” at drumming.

We received a brief introduction to Bush Mango by Colleen Hendricks, the co-founder and Executive Director. Bush Mango offers classes in West African (Guinea) Drum and Dance to youth in the Rochester community, 90% of whom receive scholarships in order to attend the classes. Through these classes and learning experiences, the youth become part of a supportive community and learn valuable skills. Last year, they performed in over 65 schools throughout the Rochester area. In addition to youth classes, Bush Mango also offers memberships and classes for adults. These classes help support the work of Bush Mango, while bringing others into the community of West African drum and dance.

After introductions were over, the fun began. We sat in circle and got an introductory lesson on the Jembe Drum with Master Drummer from Guinea Kerfala Fana Bangoura. He first taught us the three basic sounds and how to produce them, then taught us some basic rhythms. In no time the room was filled with the sound of drumming. While we all played the accompaniment, Kerfala played a solo, and other company members filled in with additional rhythms. Every one, young and old, got to be a part of the music. By the end our hands hurt, but we had gotten a taste of what it’s like to be part of a drumming community.

Talking to Colleen, I got a sense of how important a program like this can be to students and what an impact it can have in their lives in terms of providing motivation and skills that they will need throughout their life. In addition to less tangible skills, the youth are able to earn a paycheck through teaching. More than 90 percent of participants move up to the next grade in school or on to graduation from high school. In a time when we hear so much bad news about students and graduation rates, programs like this offer encouragement and signs of hope. It’s clear that Colleen is passionate about what she does and has a true love and respect for the youth who are served by Bush Mango.

To learn more about Bush Mango check out their website at http://www.bushmango.org.