Damm to perform during South Side Black History program

Robert Damm is bringing the sounds of African drums to South Side Elementary School at 8:45 a.m. for students in the third grade and at 9:45 a.m. for fourth grade students, Wednesday, Feb. 21.
Staff Writer

Robert Damm, director of Music Education Partnerships at Mississippi State University, is coming to share his passion for world music at South Side Elementary at 8:45 a.m. for students in the third grade and at 9:45 a.m. for fourth grade students, Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Damm and his collection of percussion instruments from around the world allow him to share the music of other cultures. In honor of Black History Month, the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., have sponsored Damm to come and present the sounds of not only Africa, but other continents, with the children at South Side.

"We with the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., sponsor a person or group each February to visit South Side School," sorority member Naomi Kilgore said. "We want to promote the African American heritage and educate the children on the rich cultural influences that come from Africa."

Kilgore said the program is Delta Sigma Theta Sorority's support of Bright Horizons Partners in Education, a part of the West Point Consolidated School District community volunteer organizations.

"Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has been a member of Bright Horizons since its beginning in the late nineties" Kilgore said. "The membership is proud of its support for education."

Kilgore said she was pleased to be able to announce Damm would be available to visit South Side Elementary, Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Damm preformed previously in 2016, with Church Hill Elementary music instructor Tara Lowery for a Black history program with the children at Church Hill. Lowery was a former student of Damm's at MSU.

Jembe Den, a percussion ensemble comprised of Damm’s students, will be playing Wednesday at South Side.

"They play for cultural and educational programs throughout Mississippi," Damm said. "Their repertoire consists primarily of the traditional dance rhythms of the West African region now known as Mali and Guinea: the home of the jembe drum."

Damm said Jembe Den also plays traditional drum rhythms from Nigeria, Ghana, and the African diaspora. Their drum rhythms are traditionally associated with social gatherings and community celebrations such as the end of a harvest, marriage, baby naming, and other festive occasions.

"As director of Music Education Partnerships, I share my knowledge and that of other professional musicians with school-aged children by presenting literally hundreds of programs throughout Mississippi," Damm said.  "Recent examples include facilitating recreational drumming sessions for teenage boys and girls sentenced to the juvenile detention center, and directing a Brazilian percussion ensemble for middle school students, a children’s African drum ensemble for a community Kwanzaa celebration, Native American programs at area elementary schools, a celebration of African Heritage, teaching about African music and culture for Girl Scouts of Northeast Mississippi, and performing with legendary blues guitarist Jesse Robinson in k-12 schools." 

Damm said all of his work at Mississippi State University since 1995 has reflected his passion for world music and for music education.  He said his projects as a percussionist in solo and chamber settings as well as concert programming as director of the percussion ensemble demonstrate his interest in the musical traditions of Bali, Brazil, Cuba, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Japan, Trinidad, and Zimbabwe. 

"As an active performer, my recitals have showcased many world music instruments such as amadinda, berimbau, bongos, cajon, congas, djembe, doumbec, frame drum, gyil, steel drums, and udu," Damm said. “My programs have also featured diverse musical styles in which I played the xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, timpani, multiple-percussion, and drum set." 

Damm said his freelance performing activity since 1995 includes work with Big Joe Shelton and the Black Prairie Blues Ambassadors, the State Messengers jazz combo, the Bill Cooke Trio, Jesse Robinson and the Hip Waders, Blues Axis, the Starkville-MSU Symphony, and the Delta Symphony. 

He said his continued education has included the study of music and dance in Cuba and Ghana.

" I work closely with my friends in the African Student Association, who call me 'Babatunde,' which means, father who has come back to us." Damm said. "In order to offer high quality cultural programs such as Global Fusion, International Fiesta, and especially African Night.  I direct the African Student Association’s African Drum Ensemble and also facilitate numerous community drum circle events."