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Drum Program Is on a Roll

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It’s Monday at the World Stage in Leimert Park, and musicians who’ve made names for themselves take a back seat to the young-uns who are dying to show what they’ve got at the weekly drumming workshop.

A three-man band of kids under age 10 gets up before a crowd of proud parents, neighbors and local merchants to introduce themselves before they hit it. Jahmal Rashad takes the drums while his younger sister Dejah and buddy Morgan Taylor take the piano and the trombone, respectively.

The kids call themselves Team TWISM. Jahmal explains that TWISM stands for “The World Is Mine,” and that was the natural thing to name the band because this tiny performance space with a grandiose name teaches children to embrace the world the same way.

“I like the vibe here,” says 9-year-old Jahmal. “The people are so peaceful and everyone says hello, and they let us play all the music we want every week.”

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The World Stage is a sparsely decorated performance space in the heart of Leimert Park Village, an artsy enclave in the Crenshaw district. Drummer Billy Higgins and poet Kamau Daaood opened it 10 years ago for poets and musicians who want to hone their crafts. The stage has become a popular venue in the jazz community.

But the World Stage has also established a strong community-based music program that brings established musicians and up-and-coming artists together. Its weekly workshop brings families and children together through music, and is funded by donations.

The idea is that by jamming one after another and alongside each other, the adults teach the young while also learning from them. Higgins runs the workshop from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and draws dozens of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and grandparents together for an informal jam session.The format resembles a talent show with dozens of drummers waiting for a chance to get on stage. The tiniest tots take the stage first.

When they’re done, the older kids--elementary schoolers and teens--take over. Some play to the sound of a different drummer, but Higgins encourages them all, knowing that practice makes perfect.

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“Pay attention. You guys can all learn something from one another if you’re quiet,” says Higgins, as the youngsters grow tired and impatient. “You all have something to teach each other.”

As the night grows dark, the crowd gets older. Parents and grandparents leave the audience for the stage as their kids look on admiringly. They watch folks such as Curtis Kirk, 69, fool around with cymbals and his sticks as he demonstrates a series of drumming styles ranging from bossa nova to swing.

When the old pro is finished, Higgins joins a professional jazz band on stage. They wind down the Bohemian-style evening with a jam session.

Higgins is a native Angeleno and 50-year jazz veteran who has rocked with such legends as John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Dexter Gordon and Ray Brown, and his aim is to teach a new generation.

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Vanessa Taylor, who comes to watch her daughter Morgan perform, said the World Stage gives kids the exposure to music that has been lost to school cutbacks. She said it’s also a community-oriented place that is a perfect example of the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

“The kids come here and can play any instrument they want, and all the parents are involved,” said Taylor. “The kids are learning from people in the community here, and they’re being raised by the community.”

BE THERE

World Stage, 4344 Degnan Blvd., Leimert Park. (323) 293-2451. Drumming workshop is held Mondays from 7 to 9:30 p.m. All ages. Donations accepted.

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