LA PUENTE, CA – About 15 students cluster around the row of drums, bongos, congas, timbales and cow bells, banging on the instruments with hands and sticks, vying with one another to see who can be the loudest.

Every Friday from 4 to 5 p.m., Van Wig Elementary School students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade join Principal Andrew Candelaria in the cafeteria to learn about cadence and “finding the beat.”

“There is a rhythm to each person’s individual voice; speech is not robotic and there are times when we emphasize certain words or syllables, there are times when we pause and with music there are notes that have different values,” Candelaria said. “The goal of the drum class is to boost students’ math, reading and writing comprehension in the classroom.”

Candelaria started giving drum lessons three years ago, drawing on research from the Los Angeles Music Center that indicates interactive music lessons boost classroom performance and create “a deeper engagement with learning.”

Candelaria teaches the students how to play eighth notes and quarter notes as a group. As the students bang on their individual drum sets, the sounds come together to create a harmonious beat.

“Not only are they learning how to play, but they are learning how to synchronize their movements to the beat,” Candelaria said. “It’s an exercise in sound recognition and how they apply it.”

“Do we want kids to find the beat? Absolutely, and we want them to find it earlier, rather than later,” he added. “The kids love it, it’s engaging.”

Candelaria noted that in his experience, students who consistently attend the drum class show improvement in their classroom participation and seem to exhibit more self-confidence when it comes to learning new things.

“We want to give our students every opportunity to succeed, and the arts are a big part of that initiative,” Superintendent Debra French said. “The District is excited to see elementary students engaging in an after-school music program that gives them the confidence they need to excel.”

Candelaria plans to add a Saturday drum class in 2019 to teach students by grade in 45-minute increments, allowing him to tailor lessons to each group’s age and skill level.


12.11.18_BASSETT_DRUM1: Van Wig Elementary fourth-grade students Angel Feregrino and Andres Fregoso learn to play eighth and quarter note beats using timbales, conga drums and box drums during Principal Andrew Candelaria’s Friday evening drum class.

12.11.18_BASSETT_DRUM2: Van Wig Elementary Principal Andrew Candelaria shows students how to play an eighth note on bongo drums.