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Drumming up New Music

Learning Contexts

Music - Sound Arts, Technology


Fraser Bruce

The core group



Green Bay High School

Duration of Project

Terms 2 and 3, 2009

Students Involved

A group of 6 core students selected from over 200 participating students from years 9 - 13.


The aim of this project was for students to develop skills in the construction and care of a range of percussion instruments under the supervision and tutelage of the artist, Fraser Bruce.

While students were quite keen to fashion instruments, such as tuned percussion made from plastic soft drink bottles, the valves cut from old bicycle inner tubes and a bicycle pump, they also wanted the artist, Fraser Bruce, to work with them in enhancing their performance skills.

Students were switched on to different ways of thinking about how music can be made, for example, some discovered loop pedals as way of layering and building up musical texture.

Students also were made aware of how different combinations of timbre/tone colours can create interest even in simple musical forms.

Although this Artists in Schools project began with the objective of creating instruments made from rubbish for an inaugural "Trash to Music" event to be held in conjunction with the well established West Auckland "Trash to Fashion" event, it quite quickly took on its own shape and a new direction.

Fraser leads the way


All music students had at least one drum circle session with Fraser where he demonstrated a variety of instruments. Around 200 students from a range of subjects and classes had a drum circle experience with their teachers being given the opportunity to be involved. A smaller dedicated group was then formed from that and they went on to work as a performance ensemble and performed at several school and community events.


Groups of students visited Fraser's Rhythm Centre with a view to learning how to make and care for their own drums. They worked in the school's Technical Department learning how to make marimbas which was a long term construction project with the result that many completed marimbas to required musical and technological specifications and were then able to play these instruments.

Fraser initially led the drum circles and then identified the students who had talent and a desire to continue developing the ideas generated. These students performed and composed their own music as an outcome of the experiences showing a high degree of development in each and every area of the curriculum - the key competencies, values, principles, vision and achievement objectives of the Music - Sound Arts Curriculum.

Student learning

All students in performance


The range of practical musical skills and cultural understandings increased with students playing a variety of percussion instruments and rhythmic patterns: marimbas, djembe (African hand drums), kalimba (thumb pianos) and harp.

They developed skills in ensemble playing on new instruments and increased confidence in a performance setting with public performances at the Art Exhibition Opening @ ZEAL and Lighting the Peace Flame at Glen Eden Intermediate School, serving as excellent relationship- building with one of the contributing Intermediate schools.

Performances at music performance evenings helped draw in new audiences and there was great pride demonstrated at the first assembly of the year (2010) when several sport role model students were seen and heard making music.

Related learning

Students were very willing to give up their own time to commit to playing with the group. Some students emerged as potential leaders working with enthusiasm and confidence with younger students, as mentors and as reciprocal learners. The construction and care of instruments was very powerful learning in technology and the science of sound production.

Impact on school community

The spin offs for raising the profile of Music in the school and wider community were significant as new audiences were grown through interactive performances. Outcomes included the development of the focus group of students who became a very cohesive and accomplished, portable performance troupe enhancing the profile of both the Music department and the school in the community. Since this project, there have been many interactive performance opportunities at the school and in the community with the focus group performing at a range of functions including Glen Eden Intermediate school, as a part of Peace Day celebrations, the End of Term Two assembly and both of the school prize givings. The group continued to take on new engagements becoming their own managers, stage crew, and musical directors, independent of the artist who no longer needed to be present when they played.


We offered drumming sessions to our wider community including our Köhanga Reo students and our specials needs unit, Te Aratika. These students all loved it. We have performed at a number of venues including "Story Fest", part of the 'Go West Writers' Festival' and also at our fundraising auction, our art exhibition opening and "Zeal". The effects of the project have been far wider reaching than we could have dreamed.

(Fraser Bruce, Artist)

Curriculum links

The New Zealand Curriculum values of excellence, diversity and community and participation were modelled and encouraged at every stage. Students worked in collaboration with Fraser Bruce to construct a range of percussion instruments and, in that process, developed a deeper understanding of different world cultures and the critical communication and emotional role music has to play in these cultures. By expressing themselves through playing percussion music they became more self aware and gained in self confidence.

Through investigating and performing the percussion music of different countries that are represented at Green Bay High community, students engaged actively in the musical and cultural life of the school.

The knowledge and experience gained will foster life-long enjoyment and understanding of music of different cultures.

The development of key competencies was demonstrated by the students throughout the learning process. Students were fully involved and engaged in the creative learning and performance processes as they made decisions and shaped their actions. In the ensemble playing they learned the skill of working as a team, sharing opinions and ideas constructively and dedicated a great deal of time and energy to achieving excellence together.

All four strands of the Music - Sound Arts Curriculum were encompassed through the learning. Students learned to: Understand Music - Sound Arts in Context; Develop Practical Knowledge as they learned basic techniques on new instruments; Develop Ideas as the worked to create their own music; and Communicate and Interpret music of a range of cultures for performances.

The Technology Curriculum, particularly Technological knowledge and Technological practice strands, were encompassed in the learning process.

Where to next

In 2010, some technology students are making marimbas for the music department as an NCEA project which will have benefits for both depatments.

Students have continued to work with the new instruments that the Music department has purchased, namely mibira, djembe and piano harp.

The Music department now intends to develop programmes of learning based on music from other cultures to be used as a basis for both performance and composition.

Useful links

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