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Bucket drumming isn't just for kids, says instructor bringing program to adults

The benefits of bucket drumming go beyond learning to drum, says instructor Adam Bowman
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Drummer Adam Bowman and his wife Georgia Simms have adapted a bucket drumming concept usually geared toward youth to a new seven-week session for adults. Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday

A drum instructor who has taught classes to youth using plastic buckets and garbage cans is bringing the concept to adults in an upcoming series of sessions.

Adam Bowman is a Guelph-based session drummer and drum instructor who has been teaching bucket drumming for years to youth in schools and at festivals.

The concept is exactly what it sounds like — teaching drumming on plastic painters buckets.

“This was a great way to bring music into schools that may not have had a band program. The buckets were easier to outfit a classroom with buckets and it’s cheaper,” said Bowman.

Using buckets for the sessions can also help make students less intimidated than showing up with with real instruments, said Bowman.

“They feel overwhelmed by that, maybe. But if you show up with a bunch of buckets and sticks, everybody feels like they can hit a bucket and it’s a little more accessible, although in the end we end up covering just as much real music — reading notes, calling and responding, improvising, playing, listening,” he said.

Now Bowman and his wife Georgia Simms will offer the FunkBucket experience to adults in a seven-week session starting Jan. 23 at Movement 42 on Quebec Street.

Bowman is aiming for a class size of about 35.

Simms, who teaches modern dance in the same studio space, will draw upon that dance background to help the bucket drumming participants to focus on their movement and rhythm.

“This really is for anyone — that you can literally pick up a bucket and a pair of sticks and make music. I think that’s the beauty of it, that you don’t need a lot of gear, there’s no investment, you don’t need to have gone to school for it,” said Simms.

The benefits, said Bowman, go far beyond learning to drum — participants learn to more closely listen to themselves and the group and to trust their instincts and take risks.

“The only thing we really promise or advertise is a group drumming experience, that’s essentially what the motivation here is. I feel once you get a group of people together playing music, I feel like the benefits of that go far beyond the obvious,” said Bowman.

The biggest bucket drum session Bowman has been involved with included about 95 bucket drummers at a festival.

“The more people you have in that group, the more a feeling of connection and belonging and inspiration and in some instances it’s meditative and other instances it’s empowering. You put more people in the group and it just amplifies that feeling,” he said.

The idea, said Bowman, is to get a group of people together once a week to work on skills and develop a repertoire.

“We use everything from big Rubbermaid trash bins to smaller painters buckets. It’s just an opportunity for some adults to get together and make some music,” said Bowman.

FunkBucket is modelled after the Bucket Drumming program developed by Guelphite Oliver Cutz and Tom Wolf’s African drum circle workshops, with some modifications by Bowman.

Cutz ‘literally wrote the book’ on bucket drumming, said Bowman.

“Tom and Oliver were definitely the inspiration for getting this group of people together,” Bowman said. “Those two guys have been the inspiration for the Funkbucket program.” 

Participants need only bring themselves and an open mind.

“We provide the buckets, sticks and ear protection — everything you need,” said Bowman.

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