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Students feel the rhythm

Francis Kofi began his annual artist in residence sessions in Farmington schools this week. He's working with Meadowview students this week, but he'll make his way around to all of District 192's elementary schools by winter.

Now, repeat after me," said Francis Kofi from the center of the music room at Meadowview Elementary School. "Ki. Ki. Lam-bey-bey-bey."

Obediently, the room full of fifth grade students began to chant, "Ki. Ki. Lam-bey-bey-bey." They kept on with the chant for a few minutes. Once in a while one would shoot a sideways glance at the classmate sitting along side him or her. The chanting sounded a little funny, but they were establishing a rhythm. It was something the kids could hear. Something they could follow.

After a few minutes, Kofi started to tap out that rhythm on the African drum between his legs. And then, the students started to follow the pattern. For another minute or two, they pounded out the same rhythm they had been chanting. Finally satisfied with their progress on that particular rhythm, Kofi told them to take a break.

"That hurts," one student said to another.

"My hands are numb," came the reply.

But the fifth graders at MVES have been looking forward to this artist in residence session, according to music teacher Erica Winters.

"The kids are really excited for the lessons," she said. "The kids are just crazy for the drums."

Kofi works with the students for 75 minutes every day for a week, so it gets pretty intense. But the kids aren't just learning African drumming skills. They're also learning some of the traditional dance that goes along with the music.

In the past, Kofi had worked with one or two schools within District 192 annually. Last year, though, the parent-teacher partnerships from all five elementary buildings raised enough funds to not only bring Kofi to each building, but to actually purchase several drums for the school district. And what they didn't purchase, Kofi himself donated on behalf of his dance company, the Hayor Bibimma Dance Co.

It was money well spent, all the way around.

"He works a lot on playing as a group," Winters said. "They practice really hard. They have to watch and they have to pay attention. But he's really good with them. The kids can really relate to them, too."

Meadowview Elementary fifth graders will finish their week of instruction with a performance at 1:15 p.m. in the school gymnasium. It will be a concert for the younger kids to enjoy, but parents are also welcome to attend, Winters said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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