His message is upbeat

Ugandan-born drummer entertains Fountaindale students

Ugandan-born drummer entertains Fountaindale students

November 10, 2008|By JANET HEIM


Daniel Ssuuna marches to the beat of his own drums - African drums, that is.

Ugandan-born Ssuuna travels across the country as a representative of Young Audiences of Maryland, sharing stories, art and the music of his homeland in educational settings.

He has performed at such places as the World Bank and the Kennedy Center.

On Wednesday, he was at Fountaindale School for Arts and Academic Excellence, captivating the youngest to the oldest students with a high-energy performance.

His performance was a schoolwide kickoff for a weeklong residency this week with the first-grade classes.

In that capacity, he will work with each of the three classes for almost an hour every day, giving them hands-on experience in traditional African dancing and drumming, tying in with the curriculum the teachers are already using.


First-graders will also make T-shirts in African colors, with the week culminating in a final performance by those students with Ssuuna. That grade level was chosen because their teachers have set arts goals for their classrooms and are integrating arts in their classrooms so well, said Sandra Gray-Murray, curriculum specialist for visual arts for Washington County Public Schools.

Last year, Fountaindale received the Visionary School Award sponsored by Young Audiences. That award provided the financial means to bring Ssuuna to the school for the kickoff, which was extended to include the residency, said Gray-Murray.

From words of wisdom from his grandmother, to introductions to African instruments, music, words and dance, Ssuuna mesmerized the audience.

The final dance, which included many teachers, was a big hit with the students.

"My main goal is to not only educate about different cultures; I hope they take away that even though we're different, we have a whole lot in common. I hope they walk away respecting the differences," Ssuuna said.

"They're very disciplined as an audience. This is a wonderful, wonderful school."

Fourth-grader Courtney Harley was chosen to play one of the drums.

"I liked it when I was messing up. It was just funny. I try to make myself laugh," she said, reflecting Ssuuna's upbeat, positive message.

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