Drumming from the Heart

By Jillian Koehne and Shaylee Smith

Fourth-graders at Ridgeline Academy


Franklin Thompson came to Ridgeline Academy January 21, 2016 to teach fourth-graders about the magic world of drumming.   Mr. Thompson taught us how to play a Djembe Drum by playing three different notes.  The Djembe drum is a west African drum from the Mali empire, it is shaped like an hour glass.  We also learned how to play a shakera, a colorful shaker.


Franklin Thompson is Founder of the AZ Rhythm Connection and a national leader and facilitator of Recreational Drum Circles.  Frank teaches the groundbreaking evidence based program:  HealthRhythms across the United States.     Drumming is good for the heart, it can make you feel happy.  “Making and feeling rhythm can have a profound effect on health and wellness.  Our sessions combine fundamental hand drumming with powerful relaxation, visualization and focused meditation,” Mr. Thompson said.

Thompson used his 25 years of experience to share with all of us.   He taught himself how to play a drum because the first time he picked one up he played it and loved it and has been playing the drum ever since.  Mr. Thompson brought 65 drums with him to our school so that everyone had the opportunity to play.  When we asked if he likes what he does, he said, “No., I Love it!”

Music is like a language of love and drumming is the heartbeat of that soul.    It has been with us since the dawn of our species and drumming is one of the most welcoming ways to express and experience music.  It is a fun and educational experience.  Mr. Thompson said that he also used the drums for workshops and that drumming is therapeutic.


It was an up-beat day with each student became a drumming megastar.  We all were smiling, playing and learning.  “There were so many fun drums to play,” said fourth-grader Pristine Jefferies.  We learned a lot about Mr. Thompson and the drumming.  Franklin Thompson taught us about how the drums are made and we learned that the top of the djembe drum is made of animal skins like goats and cows.  The tightness of the skin around the drum changes the sound of the drum.

Many hand drummers wear gloves or tape so that hands don’t get chapped.   If you use the right hand to hit the middle of the drum it is called a goon and the left hand is called the doon.  It was a great feeling for all of us all to create music together.  “If you can say it, you can play it!” Mr. Thompson said with a smile.

And … the beat goes on, with another day of magical learning at the Ridgeline Academy.

Advisers:  Michael Merloe, Diane White and Stacey Lane – Fourth Grade Teachers at Ridgeline Academy

To learn more about the AZ Rhythm Connection visit; www.azrhythmconnection.com

and Ridgeline Academy at; http://www.ridgelineacademy.org