Drums add rhythm to curriculum


Students in Mike Lewis’s fifth period class at Thomas Jefferson High School spend most of the hour clapping their hands and beating on their chests.

And that’s just how Lewis likes it. Drum line, a new class at Thomas Jefferson this year, teaches students rhythm, how to perform in public and a healthy way to let off a little steam. Students are graded primarily on participation and earn either fine arts or elective credits.

It takes a special kind of student to be attracted to drums, Lewis said. He would know — he was a fan of percussion instruments in college and high school.

“The drums attract those people who want to hit things or bang on things,” Lewis said, adding that those students in the class often have a little extra energy to burn off.

“I want them to be able to get their energy out while they are in this class,” he said.

In addition to getting out a little frustration, students in drum line are learning valuable skills such as self-confidence, public speaking and how to work a crowd, Lewis said.

They are taught to always smile and look like they are enjoying themselves while performing.

The Thomas Jefferson drum line performs at school basketball and football games. They also performed at this year’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration hosted by the City of Federal Way.

“It helps learn teamwork,” said Nicole Miller, a sophomore in drum line class at Thomas Jefferson.

Jody Kae Baughman, a sophomore, said she and her friends joined drum line to improve their rhythm for band and dance, which they also participate in.

Reading music also improves students’ literacy, Lewis said.

“They have to process all this information that they’re not used to,” he said. “It can be a complicated process.”

Music and art are important subjects for students to study in school, Lewis said.

He worries that budget cuts and the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) are forcing students out of fine arts classes in favor of more academics.

Music is an important outlet for many students and part of a well-rounded education, he said.

“It allows them an opportunity to be able to shine a little bit,” Lewis said. “For me, if I didn’t have music through high school, I don’t know if I’d pass high school.”

Contact Margo Horner: or (253) 925-5565.

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