Crown week is almost over but we keep it exciting to the very last second around here. This week we had a brand new addition to the Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival. A Percussion class held by Leni Stern, and her West African drummer Alioune Faye.
Faye was born and raised in Senegal, Africa. He started playing drums at the age of ten. “My father played the drums, my grandfather, my great-grandfather,” he smiles and adds, “my great-great-grandfather. Everyone in the family played the drums.” It was second nature to him. Him and Stern met in New York, six years ago through her bass player and have been playing together ever since.
Every afternoon, residents can hear the drumming and rhythmic beats pouring out the screen door, into the clear skies circling the Main Lodge log cabin. Inside, are at least a dozen percussion instruments in a circle, and a participant at each one. Stern and Faye drum away with the class, teaching them how to feel the rhythm. Even offering private lessons throughout the day for artists or family members to continue their percussion education.
Stern reached out to Director Steve Anderson, and said she’d love to bring the sound of her band along with her to the Crown this year. “My band is a mix of rock, blues, jazz and African music. The rhythms of Africa brought the groove to America, and from there it transformed into all kinds of style.” Stern felt passionate about teaching rhythm to the Crown participants, believing that there is not enough education about rhythm for guitar players.
Stern, who travels all over the world teaching and performing, says the Western countries don’t teach enough percussion the way other cultures do. Lucky for Crown, Stern is a master percussion teacher. “You stick to a beat, and you start feeling the energy is gathers, how it moves forward.” Stern’s turquoise tattoos swirl up and down her arms as we sit under the pine trees circling the lodge, “Somebody said rhythm is always related to your heartbeat.” She lays her hands against her chest, “We are rhythmic beings. Our heart pumps our blood to a beat. We just need to relay our inner rhythms, all our energy that’s flowing, to the rhythm that we’re playing.”
Her words are as captivating as watching her perform. She describes sitting in her percussion class with the students, “[The noise] goes from chaos to something that sounds surprisingly amazing. How did these people who didn’t know how to do this 15 minutes ago, now make this sound?” She stares into the clear blue skies and smiles, like the thought of the music is beating through her now. She credits her partner Faye, “Alioune has been teaching rhythm for some time, this is not his first rodeo,” She laughs. “Energy is rhythm. We are rhythm. The heart is the most obvious, it’s the bass drum of this whole orchestra that we are.”
Stern is a master of her craft, and it’s obvious from both hearing her music and listening to her words. To partake in future Percussion Classes, join us next year at Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival.