It’s hard to imagine a gym full of elementary school children could be so quiet, but when Seattle musician Arturo Rodriguez challenged their listening skills that’s exactly what happened.

“The listening skill, that’s everything,” Rodriguez told the students, before he banged out a rhythm on his cajone drum. He played a rhythm, then asked the students play it back using the gym floor as their drum.

The response was tremendous and right on the beat.

Rodriguez is the latest in a series of musicians who have visited the Grandview School District this year. Rodriguez, a drummer, brought along his friends guitarist Leif Totusek and dancer Etienne Cakpo, and together the three wowed crowds of students at all three elementary schools and the middle school.

Rodriguez was brought in through the district’s Musician in Residence program. This year the district partnered with musician Cody Beebe, who has been working to bring different musicians and experiences into the district.

For Rodriguez visiting schools is something he loves to do.

“It’s so important to be able to connect with the kids,” Rodriguez said. “This is the next generation. They’re the ones who will be making the changes in our world.”

During each assembly Rodriguez talked to students about the different drums he uses, including the bongo, conga and cajone. He talked about each of the drums’ origins in music and a little bit about the time he spent in West Africa learning about music and drums.

Rodriguez also introduced students to different musical rhythms. He talked about what he called the music triangle – how historically music traveled from Cuba, to Vera Cruz, Mexico to New Orleans.

And most importantly, Rodriguez made sure to include the students in the music he was making. Kids were given different rhythms to clap out, while he drummed, Totusek played the guitar and Cakpo danced.

“You have to let go of your ego. You have to then become part of the music,” Rodriguez said.

Really, Rodriguez just hopes that students walked away from his presentation with hope.

“Hopefully this gets them inspired to play music,” Rodriguez said. “It’s so important for your corazon – your heart.”

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An accomplished musician, author, teacher, and DJ, Arturo has performed worldwide, sharing the stage with such music legends as Tito Puente, Dave Valentin, Paul Horn, Pete Escovedo, Brandi Carlile, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and many more.
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