Students take tour of world of music

Haley Gustafson | Daily Press Musical educator Lorne Watson, far right, teaches a group of Escanaba junior high students how to play a beat on the conga drums during a presentation in the high school auditorium recently. Students, shown from left, are T’Pina Rasch, Giovanni Strong, and Parker LaFond.

ESCANABA — Escanaba junior high and high school students enjoyed a musical presentation of African, Hispanic and many other musical genres from local musical educator Lorne Watson recently.

Watson shared his background knowledge of the musical genres, while also playing songs on congas and African log slit drums.

The slit drum is a hollow percussion instrument typically used throughout Africa, Southeast Asia and Oceania. In Africa, such drums were strategically placed for optimal acoustic transmission to be used for long-distance communication, Watson explained to the group of students and teachers.

Students also had the opportunity to join Watson on the stage to play a song and learn more about the cultural instruments and songs.

Watson explained his visit to the school was made possible, in part, through a grant he recently received from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. The grant allows Watson to go into the junior and senior high schools and give presentations, work with the jazz bands, and other activities. Watson’s “residency” at the school will last until May.

While Escanaba already has art and music programs, Watson said his visits supplement the existing programs, adding he hopes to expand his reach into other school districts around the area.

“It’s a little bit of entertainment,” said Watson, noting it’s also a valuable learning experience about other cultures and their musical heritage.

In addition to presentations and other workshops, Watson also has been working on writing and performing music with Escanaba’s junior high jazz bands. A concert of Watson’s music will take place on April 12 at 7 p.m. Watson has also been working with the high school Spanish class, incorporating Spanish music into its study of the language.