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The Iowa Groove: a Drum Ensemble for 1300!

by Melissa Blum, West Music
All Photos by Andy Stoll

Q: What do you get when you combine an audience of 1300, 60 community members on a stage, an instrument for everyone, and a lot of Iowa enthusiasm?

A: The Iowa Groove, of course!

Visions In Focus, October 11, 2005 was a night of celebration for Iowa’s Creative Economy, and featured 3 different events: the announcement of Iowa Great Places community awards, a keynote address by Creative Economist Richard Florida, and The Iowa Groove, an 8-part Drumming Ensemble performed by all 1300 members of the audience along with community leaders performing on the stage. The world rhythms inspired piece was commissioned for the event by Florida Music Educator, Composer and World Music Drumming staff member Paul Corbiere.

To prepare for the event, 60 community members who had been involved in promoting the creative economy joined Paul and co-facilitator Melissa Blum of West Music for a Sunday evening rehearsal to learn the parts to The Iowa Groove, and to prepare for their roles as “Stage Drummers.” To incorporate themes of the celebration, rhythms for the ensemble were taught with words appropriate to the event, such as “Beautiful Land, Iowa,” and “Oo, technology, innovation!”

Most had never drummed before; all found it to be inspiring, a bit challenging, and totally exhilarating!

Iowa Groove Composer and Co-Facilitator Paul Corbiere at the community member rehearsal, letting them know, “We’ll end it all with a Final GHOOOOOOOZE!!!!!”

Co-facilitator Melissa Blum, of Iowa Groove sponsor West Music, teaches the low drum part to the community leaders. The rhythm for the part? “I-O-WA Tol-er-ance”

The night of the event brought an incredible response from both the audience and the drummers on stage. Together with audience leaders and volunteers, over 1300 instruments were handed out in under 5 minutes, with specific instruments in sections all over the auditorium to achieve the balance of parts and have each part played on the instrument for which it was written! Special thanks goes to event sponsors West Music and Remo, each of whom provided hundreds of drums and other percussion instruments for the ensemble.

Audience members with Remo festival tubanos, playing the high drum part, “Tal-ent, Use Our Talents!”

A drumming ensemble is a perfect metaphor for community: each individual contributes something different, weaving parts and talents together to create the power of the whole.

The community leaders who comprised the stage drummers get into the groove!

Audience leaders like local Blues legend Kevin Burt helped keep the 1300 member ensemble playing together.

Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and First Lady Christie Vilsack participate in The Iowa Groove!

No great celebration is complete without an awesome party favor: Custom Remo Sound Shapes for everyone in the audience, sponsored by The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

The Iowa Groove at Visions in Focus: Celebrating our creative communities through the power of the drum!
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