Diali (pronounced “Jelly”) Cissokho arrives at Pittsboro Elementary School bright and early. He has 25 drums to unload and set up so that he’s ready to teach 3rd grade classes how to do what comes so naturally for him – play the drums. What these students may not know is that Diali, a well-known West African musician, will be weaving math and global studies into these classroom workshops as part of the Chatham Arts Council’s Artists-in-Schools Initiative.
This residency, powered by Betty Wilson, is a great way to take students out of their regular school routine while making a deeper connection to the core curriculum they are meant to digest.
Before Diali gets to the workshops, he treats 2nd and 3rd graders to an interactive performance of West African kora (a West African jumbo spike-lute with 22 strings made from fishing line), singing, drumming, and storytelling. This is an example of the Chatham Arts Council’s Artists-in-Schools Initiative – a program created to usher professional artists into Chatham County schools since the 2015-16 school year, helping engage students through art, theater, and music.
For the rest of the week, Pittsboro Elementary School 3rd graders had the opportunity to participate in Diali’s drumming workshops where teamwork, cohesion, and focusing on rhythm are key components. “Do we have to go to recess?” an excited student asked his teacher with obvious reluctance to leave the workshop. Who would have thought students would become so engrossed in West African drumming that they’d be willing to give up their chance for running around outside? The week culminated with a performance, not by Diali, but by the 3rd grade classes who worked so diligently to master the skill for days. “Diali really brought us together as a team, showed us the importance of hard work and dedication,” explained Jennifer Olechnowicz, one of the 3rd grade teachers.
The Chatham Arts Council could not bring professional artists into Chatham County schools without the help of our partners: Chatham County Schools, Chatham County, and the North Carolina Arts Council.
A HUGE thank you to Betty Wilson for powering this initiative!
The Chatham Arts Council is working to expand the Artists-in-Schools Initiative this year, bringing professional artists into 13 Chatham County schools. Click here to be part of this artistic endeavor.