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Long Lake students learn about African culture

April 18, 2012
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LONG LAKE - Students at Long Lake Central School spent two days at the end of March learning about Africa with members of the Senegal-America Project.

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade participated in percussion and dance workshops as well as workshops focused on the science of sound, poetry, women's rights and storytelling.

School staff also invited members of the community to share the experience with students.

Article Photos

Long Lake students participate in a percussion workshop.
(Photo provided)

The Senegal-America Project group included Tony Vacca, an American percussionist, accompanied by Abdou Sarr, a dancer from Senegal, West Africa, and Tantra-zawadi, a performance poet and published author from Brooklyn. The trio performed a range of music, spoken word and dance for the Long Lake community, using a diverse range of percussion instruments including giant West African balafons, talking drums, a hybrid percussion/drum set and more than 20 gongs.

At the end of the two days, the experience was wrapped up with a community event sponsored by the Long Lake Central School Parent-Teacher-Student Organization and the Friends of the Long Lake Library.

It was called "Drumming to the Beat of the Community" and filled the Long Lake school gym with community members of all ages.

Students performed what they learned from the visitors. Both elementary and high school students presented poems. Then faculty and students got on stage and played a song they had learned that day on the group's instruments in what teachers described as "the most intense and amazing part of it.

"The layers of sound and the timing and coordination could not have happened anywhere else, clearly because we are a small school, but also because of the community we have here," said English teacher Noelle Short.

The whole experience was the brainchild of music teacher Brian Beaudin, and it was supported by the school's administration and faculty. Teachers weaved African culture into their clases through many angles, including literature, art and even science with the sound component.

"It filled our halls for much of March, so this was a really exciitng celebration," Short said.

More information on the Senegal-America Project is available online at



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