Students are restless. The pep rally is well underway and everybody is anticipating Thanksgiving break, which lies ahead. Shouts of encouragement rise out of the crowd as the members of the Samba Drumming Club file into the center of the Schluntz Gymnasium. With a few emphatic, powerful strikes of the drum, the performance begins. The drummers weave intricate rhythms, letting one beat flow into another. The audience applauds and cheers, enraptured, with all rivalries temporarily forgotten.
For members of the Samba Drumming Club, samba drumming represents more than just a chance to perform; it also presents a valuable opportunity to use rhythm to forge strong friendships within the club.
Club leader and senior Roger Burtonpatel said that the club gathers in the band room every Tuesday to practice new rhythms, improve their routines and prepare for their numerous performances, including those at home basketball games and at the winter and spring concerts. Club adviser and band teacher Carolyn Castellano oversees the club.
Castellano describes the Samba Drumming Club as student-run and essentially self-sufficient.
According to Castellano, the club leaders – Burtonpatel, Nick Anmahian and Isaiah Ives – are responsible for teaching club members the art of samba drumming. No experience is required to join the club, but individual parts can eventually become heavily syncopated, requiring much thinking and concentration.
Ives also compared the complexity of samba rhythms to orchestral music, attesting to the beauty, magnitude and power of the rhythms.
“It all comes together to create some really grooving, really pounding, loud, very complex rhythms,” Ives said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
According to Castellano, students at the high school have a rare opportunity; many schools do not have a samba drumming program. Castellano also said that the Samba Drumming club can provide students interested in percussion with a valuable chance to pursue their interests and to join a club that seems entertaining and engaging.
Club member and sophomore Nate Arnstein acknowledges that although samba drumming certainly is not easy, everyone works together in order to master new rhythms and repertoires. Students who learn the patterns more quickly are taught first, and then they proceed to assist their fellow club members.
“I’ve noticed that everyone is super supportive of each other and when they can’t quite figure out the beats, everybody comes together and helps,” Arnstein said. “I think that’s something that’s really strong and awesome. I enjoy that. It’s one of my favorite things about the club.”
In Burtonpatel’s opinion, the club members’ support of each other also provides everybody with a rapport, especially when things don’t go according to plan.
“Even if we need to improvise a little, even if we need to change our patterns or change the order in which we play them a little bit, everyone’s on the same page by the concert that everyone really just gets it,” Burtonpatel said. “No single person is ever left behind and I love that feeling.”
For Ives, the club is an encouraging, warm community where people can comfortably and safely step out of their comfort zones.
“It’s a lot about being more confident in yourself and not being afraid to necessarily put yourself out there and to do something that may look a little silly but still have fun while doing it,” Ives said.
The Samba Drumming Club has understandably become a tight-knit community over time, as close friendships tend to form within the group.
“We’re very welcoming; people sometimes come and go, just because of commitments, but as they get better and better, it becomes much more tight,” Burtonpatel said. “We’re united by the sense of rhythm, which is something that is hard to describe in words. It’s really a unique feeling that I feel is very cohesive and very poignant.”