New arts enrichment initiative offered at DAY Program

ALABASTER – DAY Program students spend their days focused on core subjects, but they recently had an opportunity to play an African drum—and learn about lessons the instrument has for their lives.

Three enrichment sessions were offered through a Leadership Shelby County group on Thursday, Feb. 15, at the Alabaster YMCA, which houses the DAY Program for at-risk youth who have fallen behind in school.

Leadership Shelby County participants each year split into groups that are responsible for developing a project to benefit the community.

The group is planning to offer quarterly enrichment sessions, called Discover DAY, with a different focus each time, including music therapy, creative writing, visual arts and more.

DAY Program Executive Director Kathy Miller said most of the students’ backgrounds do not include exposure to the arts.

“I just thought a small light might come on if they tried something they haven’t been exposed to,” Miller said. “When they’re given a chance to be creative, they are, we’re just not in a position to build on it.”

On Feb. 15, John Scalici provided African Djembe drums for each participant.

“I’m not really here to teach you about music,” Scalici said. “I’m here to show you what you can do when you find what you’re passionate about.”

Scalici explained that the drums in West African culture are used to bring people together, and then showed the students how to make bass and tone sounds.

The sessions began with call-and-response, then Scalici provided a foundation beat and asked the students to each add something to the sound.

When the foundation changed, the students saw how the beat fell apart, but then determined that they could stay on rhythm if one of them provided the foundation instead.

“What is the lesson for real life?” Scalici asked. “Distractions take you out of your rhythm.”

Solutions include finding someone else who has a steady rhythm and focusing on goals, the students said.

Patti Smith, who is retired from the Alabama Supreme Court and is a DAY Program Advisory Board member, said Discover DAY will help students express themselves.

“Sometimes it is so hard to be brutally honest about one’s own life that telling a story or painting a picture is a much easier alternative to begin the process of healing,” Smith said and noted the recent passing of Allen Fulton, who along Charles Knowles helped found the DAY Program. “I believe supplementing the academics and counseling here at DAY with music will help the youth at DAY to be honest in their self-reflection and self-expression and they can do so in this safe and supportive environment.”

Discover DAY will be maintained by the Shelby County Arts Council.

For more information, visit ShelbyCountyArtsCouncil.com/discoverday.