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Inside Out Camping Retreat

by Lauren Deck

It was a cool brisk evening in the Angeles National Forest at the 17th Rehearsal and Camping Retreat, organized by Inside Out Community Arts School Project for more than one hundred middle school students from different schools throughout Los Angeles.

Middle school students and their Artist Leaders gathered at the camp’s outdoor amphitheatre armed with drums and percussion instruments. A small campfire was blazing in a pit between the seats and stage, and everyone huddled close together on benches, bundled in warm clothes and hats. The night air was much colder than most were accustomed to. All attention went to the stage where Joselyn, an Inside Out Artist Leader for 10+ years, picked up her large djembe drum and introduced her friend and fellow drummer, Anindo.

The women began a demonstration of West African drumming rhythms, and the students were fully engaged as they followed and played along with Joselyn’s lead. Everyone was encouraged to make rhythms on their laps if they didn’t have a drum or percussion instrument in hand. Cold hands were soon warmed with steady patterns of clapping, beating and tapping. The vibrant energy worked up by drumming created welcomed warmth.

After the young drummers practiced some basics, Joselyn invited people to the front of the stage who wanted to get their groove on. Both students and adult Artist Leaders moved out of their seats, crowded around the campfire, and were poised and ready to move to the beats. The drumming duo demonstrated several dance steps from the stage, and the accompanying rhythms that the remaining drummers would be playing. The crowd was soon transformed into a collective of movement and sound. Stars shone down brightly in the night that was far removed from city lights, and an energetic community rose up stronger as the music grew louder.

The dancers got more confident as they practiced their steps, and the movement of their entire bodies became graceful and fluid. They raised their arms to the sky, then down to the earth, symbolizing the connectedness of all that is above and below. The drummers also became more confident as they became more in tune with the deep earthy rhythms. It was an amazing experience to be a part of this powerful group, united in music and movement, and to express our own ethereal internal rhythms along with the soulful beat created by the entire group. Thank you Remo!
~Lauren Deck, Program Associate for Inside Out

A special anecdote & thanks to Remo:
Working as an Artist Leader at Inside Out Community Arts' Fall '08 Camp Retreat, I passed out Remo's bongos and drums the night we had a campfire concert for the students. They were so excited to grab high-quality instruments, which are hard to come by in a lot of school music programs. Our African Drum/Dance circle was rocking! The strong beats and the colorful look of the instruments had everyone hooked. Remo lent us so many types of bongos that I was breaking a sweat just trying to make sure each student got to play every one! In the end, though, it's all worth it for the children, and Inside Out could not have done it without Remo's generosity.
~Jason Joven, Artist Leader for Inside Out

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