Local drummer pushes for community music

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury’s Will Smith saw an opening to bring more music into the community and took it, because he believes it is important to everyone to have music in their lives.
“It brings the community together and it’s just very good, especially for a place like Middlebury that doesn’t have much live music outdoors,” he said. “It’s a very quiet town and I want to get something going here.”
Smith, 22, recently opened the Drum Collective, a music studio in Marble Works where he runs hour-long community drum circles on Mondays. The sessions cost $12 per person, but he keeps a limited number of free tickets available  on his website to pique interest and make the class accessible.
“I put the free tickets out there, for now at least, and so people who can’t pay or want to come for free can, as long as I allow that many spaces,” he said. “I need to make money, because it’s going to be full-time, but I need people to be able to play for free also because I’m really doing it for the town.”
Smith explained that the drumming sessions are simple.
“It’s a free flow of people who want to drop by and play drums,” he said. “I facilitate the drumming, which is basically teaching, but it’s a lot less writing and paper and more playing and experience and having fun and being joyful. Any age is welcome, younger, older, anybody can join in.”
Smith graduated from Middlebury Union High School in 2008 and studied for two years at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He traveled with a professor to Ghana in the summer of 2010, where he continued studying percussion.
He cites his time in Ghana as a significant influence in his decision to open the Drum Collective. He said that experience built off what he learned at Berklee.
“I think my trip to Africa was huge,” Smith said. “In Ghana they had rhythm collective-type stuff. At both (Ghana and Berklee) I did these drum circles and it was very inspiring.”
Smith is familiar with a wide range of percussive styles, some of which he studied at Berklee and some that he picked up in his travels. He enjoys sharing that knowledge in his drum circles.
“I studied Brazilian percussion, African percussion, pretty much everything,” he said. “I know a lot of different rhythms and I will start the rhythm and people can join in.”
Smith explained that drumming can connect people within the community.
“Especially in today’s age, people have lost touch with being grounded,” he said. “They need to get their hands on the drums and be on the heartbeat. People don’t think it’s that important, but subtle things like drumming can make a huge difference in the community’s life and then that will expand out for the whole country.”
Smith hopes to expand the hours of his operation for the benefit of the community.
“For now it’s just on Mondays,” he said. “That’s just not enough for me. I need it to be every day for the community, not just for me.”
Smith plans on expanding the business by “ diving into it” and spreading the word.
“To grow the business I will just keep it open and show up every day and build the drumming and have it more often, and hopefully people will want to join in,” he said. “Once I get people feeding back, once I see that people will start taking the free lessons, then I will come in here more. Hopefully that’s how it will grow.”
Smith is happy with the Drum Collective’s progress so far and sees a positive future ahead.
“I feel very good about it, confident,” he said. “I’m just so passionate that I want to share it with the community.
“I think that people need to give it a try, because a lot of people just want to stay at home, cooped up inside. Sometimes they don’t feel like going out and doing stuff in town. But a lot of people say that this is fun. They should try it and drum with other community members and get connected with people, get to know each other so we’re not too separated in Middlebury.”
More information is at www.drumcollective.org.

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