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Returns July 2015

DRUM (from 2013)

Close-up of drummers' hands playing conga drums

The goal is to have classes that are challenging and comfortable with students of similar skill levels grouped together. Refer to the guide below when choosing your drum level. Students who believe they are above Level 1 will be evaluated on Sunday, July 21 by the faculty and assigned an appropriate skill level. (Some adjustments in placements may be made to manage enrollment in each level.)

Students who are having difficulty keeping up in an advanced class may be asked to either stop participating and observe or move to a class that is more appropriate to the individual’s skill level.


[photo of drummer and son]LEVEL 1 - requires little or no prior experience with Afro-Cuban music or conga drumming techniques. Rhythms will be broken down slowly and methodically.

LEVEL 2 - requires introductory knowledge of Afro-Cuban rhythms and some prior conga drumming instruction. Participants must demonstrate basic conga drum strokes (open/tone, bass, heel toe, mute, and slap) and basic rhythmic independence (tapping the pulse or mainbeat while clapping the cinquillo, tresillo, son and rumba claves, the bell to bembé, as well as the 6:4 crossrhythm.) Level 2 students are expeted to pick up rhythms at a moderate pace.

LEVEL 3 - participants must demonstrate all level 2 skills plus:

  • an ability to pick up rhythms quickly
  • clear distinction of conga strokes and stick techniques
  • Caja and supportive parts to bembé
  • an understanding of the guaguanco, how the parts fit together
    and typical improvisations for each drum

LEVEL 4 - participants must demonstrate all level 3 skills plus:

  • be able to tap pulse or mainbeat with foot to bembé and guaguancó conga parts
  • demonstrate an ability to pick up rhythms very quickly
  • for batá classes, students must also have prior knowledge of batá technique and prior experience playing batá.


instructors playing congas


Instruction will focus on various components of several Afro-Cuban folkloric rhythms such as Bembé, Iyesa, Arará, Rumba, Makuta, Palo, Olokun, Brikamo, Abucua, Conga, as well as rhythms from the Haitiano tradition. Popular Afro-Cuban rhythms such as timba, songo, and more may also be covered. Specific information will be in the detailed schedule, which will be available by April 1.

Level 1 classes will acquaint students with the fundamental techniques and strokes for the conga drum, basic patterns, unison and ensemble playing, and establishing a groove. In addition to conga drums, students will incorporate cowbells, claves, and other hand percussion used in Afro-Cuban music.

Level 2 classes focus on the folkloric and popular repertoire. Songs may be incluced when appropriate. Core and lead parts and concepts will be taught.

Level 3 and 4 classes are similar to level 2 except the chosen repertoire may be more obscure and/or advanced. Level 4 will include popular styles, including instruction on drum set and timbales, and batá drumming.




students and instructor at drum kitPOPULAR STYLES

With Jesus Diaz. Instruction for timbales, drum set, congas and other percussion used in modern Cuban music such as timba. Other popular styles such as son montuno, cha cha cha, guaguancó and songo, may also be covered.



Master class for Iya players and those who currently play batá.



[photo of checkere]SAT., JULY 27: Week-long participants are invited to attend the faculty performance, which is open to the public for a nominal admission charge. Students are invited to dance with faculty in the conga de comparsa.