African drumming ensemble will be joined by dancers for performance at San Juan College
Professor Teun Fetz lauds youthful energy dancers bring to drummers
- The concert is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16 in the Connie Gotsch Theater on the college campus.
- Tickets are $8 for adults, and $6 for students and seniors.
- They are available for purchase at the San Juan College Bookstore or at the door on the night of the event.
FARMINGTON — In the seven years since he started the program, San Juan College music professor Teun Fetz has seen the school’s African drumming ensemble grow from five first-year participants to a robust collective that sometimes numbers as many as 20 people.
But when the group delivers its end-of-semester concert at the Connie Gotsch Theater on the college campus this weekend, there will be a lot more folks on stage than that. Fetz’s African drumming students will be joined by 14 dancers from AnnMarie’s Dance Academy in Farmington for a joint performance.
“This is music for dancing, not just for drumming,” Fetz said of the program, which will consist of seven pieces of varying styles.
The two groups began working together only a few days ago, but Fetz said he expects the two elements to come together quickly despite some challenges.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “We’re learning to play with the dancers and keep the tempos up.”
Fetz said he approached Sarah Oliver, the development and special events coordinator at the San Juan College Foundation, with the idea of the two groups working together in October, since Oliver also serves as an instructor at the dance academy. He said Oliver was receptive to the idea, and the two of them finalized plans for the joint performance in November, giving the dance students time to develop their choreography for the event.
Fetz said most of the dancers will be between eight and 15 years old, an age range that will contrast nicely with his group of drummers, many of whom are older adults, although there is one high school student and two college students in his group.
“It’s really cool to have that youth-infused excitement to it,” Fetz said. “They’re awesome.”
Fetz said that while drumming traditionally plays a part in many elements of society in such locales as Guinea, Mali and West Africa, including religion, cultural celebrations, storytelling and communication, it is music that is meant to be accompanied by movement, making dance an integral part of the listening experience.
“I think the audience is going to love what they see when they see them,” he said of the enthusiasm the dancers have brought to the presentation.
Fetz said the addition of the dancers will only enhance what already is a one-of-a-kind creative experience in the area.
“For the Four Corners and Farmington, we provide something pretty unique,” he said. “It’s definitely off the grid compared to the music you usually hear in this town.”
Fetz hopes the performance doesn’t just entertain people — he would like it to serve as a recruiting tool for the group, which is always looking for new members. One of the great things about being part of an African drumming group, he said, is that with just a few lessons, anyone can learn the basic techniques needed to be a contributing member.
“As James Brown says, ‘Everybody’s a drummer,’” he said, citing the natural sense of rhythm everyone possesses. “Even if you’re a guitar player, you rely on that sense of rhythm. You don’t need to have a lot of training to do this. Anyone can join and be part of it without feeling ostracized. It’s very user friendly.”
Fetz said the classes he leads feature a fun, intimate and collegial atmosphere, with many of his students returning semester after semester because of the sense of kinship the group offers. It’s an immersive experience, he said.
“You’re bringing joy to people through rhythm, and you feel the music through your body,” he said.
The concert is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, in the Connie Gotsch Theater on the college campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. They are available for purchase at the San Juan College Bookstore or at the door on the night of the event. They also can be purchased online by visiting sanjuancollege.edu/events.